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.
“Don’t let heart-hurt rule you.” Mother Maybelle cupped his cheek. “A race without children is a race without a future.”
As always thanks for letting me share.
Amazing what she accomplished! Starting out with sales door to door to doing so much more!
I was impressed by her resilience – death of her parents at an early age, illness, and didn’t finish school- did not stop her from achieving great success. I loved her philanthropy as well. She serves as an inspiration to people on what can be accomplished with grit and determination.
So true, Colleen. Where’s there’s a will there’s a way. Thanks for commenting.
I agree, Candice. To struggle to succeed then turn around and give back is inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
Maybe someone will think it interesting enough to make a movie about her. Thanks for commenting bn100.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Anna. And what a great excerpt! Continued all the very best.
Thanks for stopping by, Barbara.
I saw a mini series about Madame C.J. Walker called SELF MADE, starring Octavia Spencer. Enjoyable.
Hi Mary, I saw it too. Annie doesn’t come off too good in it, does she? But the source material was someone related to Madame C.J. Walker. What’s funny is in reading up on Annie in the State Historical Society of Missouri, it’s Madame C.J. Walker who’s the villain of the piece. They describe her as “infamous.” LOL.
That is fascinating–I hadn’t known of Annie Turnbo Malone, and am glad that there are efforts to keep her legacy alive and known! It’s certain that she and many other women (especially women of color) have accomplished much that would otherwise be forgotten or worse, buried. Thank you for bringing this to light!
How amazing! There are so many stories that we need to learn.
Glad to have been of service flchen1. As I keep discovering these African-American women, I wonder how many stories of women of other ethnicities are waiting to be discovered.
I totally agree, Debra.
Keep enlightening us. Thanks for your hard work.
Thanks for the appreciation, Paula.
I always enjoy reading your posts on Delilah’s blog because I learn something every single time so thank you!
My pleasure ButtonsMom2003. Glad to be of service.