Hair-story: Facts about Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C.J. Walker

Hair-story: Facts about Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C.J. Walker

Beauty industry pioneers Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C.J. Walker were trailblazing businesswomen. Each woman founded very successful enterprises that employed thousands of African Americans (mainly women) by developing haircare and beauty products, starting beauty salons, and opening up beauty schools.

Here are some quick facts about each of their entrepreneurial journeys in the Black Hair Care space:

Facts About Annie Turnbo Malone

Photo of Annie Turnbo Malone standing in front of a brick building

  1. Malone is regarded as one of the first African American women to achieve millionaire status. Malone's legacy as a pioneer in the beauty and cosmetic business has been largely overshadowed by the success of her former employee, Madam C. J. Walker.

  2. In1918, Malone established Poro College in St. Louis, the first cosmetology school and training center for nurturing and styling African American hair. The school was named after an organization in West Africa that exemplified physicality and spirituality. By the mid 1950s there were thirty-two branches of the Poro school throughout the country.

  3. Thousands of “Poro agents,” ranging in ages from 16 to 80, were trained to sell custom hair products door to door and use the “Poro system” of scalp cleaning, nourishing and hair growth.

  4. The popular "Poro method" has been imitated by modern cosmetic brands like Avon and Mary Kay.

  5. Malone's altruistic legacy endures. The Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center is the former St. Louis Orphans Home, which was renamed after her in 1946. In her honor, Annie Malone Drive was given to the street where the center is situated.

Facts about Madam C.J. Walker

Photo of Madam CJ Walker driving a car

  1. Madam C.J. Walker was the first female self-made millionaire in America, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. However, multiple sources state that, while other women may have been the first, their wealth was not as well documented.

  2. In 1908, Walker opened a factory and beauty school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Lelia College, where she taught women to become "hair culturists."

  3. Walker hosted her first annual convention, The Madam C.J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America, in August 1917, where she advocated for female entrepreneurs to use their financial independence and influence to effect social and political change.

  4. Walker popularized hot combs that straighten hair texture but did not invent the pressing comb. She was occasionally referred to as the "Dekink Queen," a title she rejected by claiming that her products were designed to help Black women grow their hair, not to change them.

Ready for more Black Hair-story Facts? Stay tuned to our Roots of Strength series each week as we highlight trailblazers in the hair industry during Black History Month!

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