Book Review Bundles, a'Lelia, on Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker
On Her Own Ground is the first full-scale, definitive biography of Madam C.J. Walker -- the legendary African American entrepreneur and philanthropist -- by her great-great-granddaughter, A'Lelia Bundles.
The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Sarah Breedlove—who would become known as Madam C. J. Walker—was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman. Then—with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women—everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women, and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism. Along the way, she formed friendships with great early-twentieth-century political figures such as Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington.
She began her business by selling these products and demand increased sharply which lead to the birth of the company. She never had any prior knowledge on the cosmetic industry and she had not planned to build a company in future. This is a very rare occasion, which makes Walker a very outstanding businesswoman (Oakwood Publishing Company, 2010). Madam Walker had a very harsh beginning but this did not hinder her from becoming the first African American millionaire. For instance, her parents were slaves, she became an orphan at the age of seven, her brother-in-law abused her, and she never had a stable marriage, among others. Regardless of the racism that was prevalent in America during her time, she was able to build her career to the point of owning an empire. She ever worked as a house help and when she was venturing in to this business, she was working as a laundress (Oakwood Publishing Company, 2010).
All in all, whatever teenage reservations I may have had about Madam Walker are long gone. My original childhood curiosity has remained my most reliable guide. And now that I am the same age as Madam Walker when she experienced her greatest achievements, I fully understand why many consider her an American icon. It is a privilege to tell her story.
Bundles, A. (2001). On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. New York: Simon and Schuster. Web.
Geisst, C. (2006). Encyclopedia of American business history. Volume 1. New York: Infobase Publishing. Web.
Nelson, D. (1996). The history of Business in America. Web.
Oakwood Publishing Company. (2010). Walker, Madame C. J. Web.
Weinbaum, A. E. (2008). The modern girl around the world: consumption, modernity, and globalization. NY: Duke University Press. Web.