By Michael Baadke
Madam C.J. Walker, a successful businesswoman who used her wealth to help others, was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, La., on Dec. 23, 1867.
She struggled as a laundress in St. Louis, Mo., a single mother after her husband died when she was 20.
She developed a formula for hair rejuvenating products and marketed them under the name Madam C.J. Walker. She promoted her products throughout the South, and within four years established her national headquarters in Indianapolis.
“She was a classic rags-to-riches story,” her great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles told Linn’s Stamp News in 1998. “What made her different from others is that she used that money to provide educational opportunities for young African-Americans, contributing money to colleges and universities.”
She was also involved in the anti-lynching movement of the NAACP, and encouraged other women to pursue business opportunities and economic independence, Bundles added.
Walker died in 1919. She was commemorated on a 32¢ stamp issued Jan. 28, 1998, in the Black Heritage series (Scott 3181).