UPDATE: The winner is…Mary Preston!
If you were to say that Madame C.J. Walker was the first female African-American millionaire, you’d be wrong. Before Madame C.J. Walker there was Annie Turnbo Malone. The archives of the State Historical Society of Missouri records that Annie was a millionaire by the end of World War I.
Annie Turnbo was born free in 1869 of formerly enslaved parents in Metropolis, Illinois. She was raised by an older sister since her parents died when Annie was very young. Frequent illness kept her from graduating high school but did not stifle her interest in chemistry. She focused on creating hair care products for African American women that did not damage their hair and scalp.
By the turn of the century, she had created a hair care product for African-American women she called Great Wonderful Hair Grower and sold it door to door. Because of high demand for her product, she opened a retail outlet at the 1904 Chicago World’s Fair. As a matter of fact, Sarah Breedlove, aka Madame C.J. Walker worked for Annie as one of her salesforce. The rivalry between the two women has been dramatized in the movie Self Made. How accurately depends on who you ask.
Annie founded Poro College, which had its grand opening in 1918. The school specialized in the teaching and study of Black cosmetology. The college had thirty-two branches by the mid-1950s. She donated $25,000 to Howard University College of Medicine, $25,000 to start a Black YMCA in St. Louis and donated generously to the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home, which in 1946 was renamed after her.
Unfortunately, an ugly divorce, lawsuits, and tax problems plagued Annie’s later years. Eventually, the federal government took over and sold her business for taxes. She died of a stroke in 1957. Fortunately, her home state has not forgotten her legacy of entrepreneurship and philanthropy. The annual Annie Malone May Day parade in St. Louis began in 1910, and children’s books like Wonderful Hair help keep Annie from being totally forgotten.
For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments your thoughts on Annie’s story or share about a woman in history you know of who needs to be given her place in the sun again.
Better To Marry Than To Burn
Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…
A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.
Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.
Caesar sucked his teeth and crossed his arms. If white-sheeted Knights of the White Camellia hadn’t succeeded in running him off, neither would the Purity Patrol.
A tap on his left shoulder blade turned him around.
“You know what they’re saying is right, Caesar.”
He uncrossed his arms and took off his hat in deference to the tiny, wiry woman speaking to him.
“Not moving on is a betrayal of the past,” Mother Maybelle Jenkins said. “Ain’t you still a young man?”
A gentle chiding colored her tone. The compassion in her gaze slayed his resentment.
“You was only twenty five when you and Emma arrived here?”
She shook her head. “Well, the Bible tells us it’s not good for a man to be alone. Emma and your boys been gone five years now.”
Caesar patted her hand gently. Five years. Where had the time gone? Seemed like only yesterday he’d placed flowers on their graves for the first time.