Little known in France, Madam CJ Walker, whose real name is Sarah Breedlove, is nevertheless an important figure in the history of feminism. And for good reason: she is the first woman in the United States to become a millionaire on her own.
Born in Louisiana in 1867, this daughter of former slaves founded Walker Manufacturing Co., a company that created the first hair care products specifically designed for black women who, like her, suffered from scalp conditions. Her company, which has become a real beauty empire, has made it possible to employ thousands of black women.
In parallel with her activity, Madam CJ Walker has become an activist involved in the defense of civil rights and women’s rights. A leading philanthropist, she supported many associations and became one of the first great figures of Afro-feminism.
As ABC News explains, it was in 2021 that Mattel, the American toys and games company, approached the great-great-granddaughter of Madam CJ Walker to create a Barbie doll in her likeness. A’Lelia Bundles is the official biographer and author of several books on the American entrepreneur, one of which was used to make the Netflix series Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker.
Women rarely mentioned in school textbooks
A’Lelia Bundles said they had a hand in designing the doll. Her final version is dressed in a purple floral print blouse paired with a teal skirt and is holding a miniature replica of the original “Wonderful Hair Grower,” a pomade that has helped fix many scalp issues for women with dark hair. frizzy.
“When I was 3 my mum bought me a black doll and it was in the 1950s so it was really unusual, told A’Lelia Bundles. It was very difficult to find black dolls, but my mother understood the importance it had for me to be able to recognize myself in a doll.
In 2018, Mattel launched a special series of Barbies called “Inspiring Women” featuring pioneering women who paved the way for generations of girls.
A’Lelia Bundles said she hoped the doll would not only inspire children to break down barriers like Madam CJ Walker did, but also teach them about existence “real people who have had very interesting and meaningful lives” but which are rarely mentioned in school curricula.