28 March 2022
In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s reflect on woman whose stories made history:
The Woman Who Grew Hair: Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
Madam C.J. Walker was the first American woman to become a self made millionaire. She became an orphan at the age of 7, got married at 14, and became a widow at the age of 20, as a single mother earning $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. 20 years later, she owned a million-dollar hair-care empire.
How did she manage this we all ask?
Born Sarah Breedlove, she discovered she was losing hair. In the 1890s she relocated to Denver and came across a hair growth formula which she turned into a business of hair products: “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.”
Off the heels of her products’ success, she expanded into, cosmetic markets from shampoos to cold creams to hot combs. To expand her products, she went door to door, placed ads in newspapers, trained specialized “Walker agents,” invested thousands in her own company when others wouldn’t take that chance or risk.
It’s safe to say she got her life straightened out on her own.
Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793)
I’m sure almost every U.S. history textbook ever printed probably remembers “Eli Whitney” who invented “Cotton Gin”, but what about Eliza Pinckney? She was the first successful woman who planted the North American indigo plant!
At the age of 16, when girls her age had to prepare for marriage, she was managing three slave plantations is South Carolina. Desperately wanting to reduce her family’s debt, she tried growing ginger, and other experimental crops to little or no success. Then, in 1739, she planted the indigo plant, which was later used to dye textile fabrics in England’s mills (thank her for your blue jeans).
Her dad had some connections to assist her so she learned how to successfully grow, cultivate, and export indigo. By 1775, South Carolina was exporting annually, with a present-day value of over $30 million.
The Woman Who Published the Declaration: Mary Katherine Goddard (1738-1816)
Most people should know who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and some might know who signed it. But do you knw who published it? Mary Goddard, Baltimore’s first postmaster, and probably the U.S. government’s first female employee.
Mary made her name as publisher of The Maryland Journal for 10 years while working at Baltimore’s post office as a manager during the Revolutionary War. In 1777, Mary printed the first copy of the Declaration with the identities of the signers revealed — a huge political moment that brought the signer’s names into fame while hers sank into obscurity.
Her brother, William, eventually forced her out of the family business as publisher of the Maryland Journal which he took over. She was fired five years later as postmaster because the new postmaster general, Samuel Osgood, claimed “more travelling might be necessary than a woman could undertake.”
See, even in the worst circumstances these woman still managed to become successful, and so can YOU.
Until next time,