Candlewick Press has recently reissued in paperback Kathryn Lasky's biography of Sarah Breedlove Walker, originally published in 2000. In a brief 48 pages, Lasky chronicles the life of this remarkable woman, born into poverty to former slaves, who became a highly successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. Orphaned at the age of seven, Sarah had a difficult childhood, and married at the age of 14 to escape living with her sister and her cruel husband. She eventually moved to St. Louis where she worked as a laundress and diligently saved to be able to give her daughter the education she never had.
Because of poor nutrition, Sarah's hair began to fall out, and she began to work on a formula that would produce healthy hair for African-American women. After testing her products on herself, she began selling door-to-door, and eventually expanded her products into the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, a business empire which made her the wealthiest black woman in America.
In a brief, easy to read narrative, Lasky hits on the highlights of Walker's life, emphasizing how remarkable her success was in an era when she had two strikes against her--being female and being black. My favorite scene in the book involves Waker attending a conference of African-American business leaders, all of whom (of course!) were men. Lasky describes how Walker tried unsuccessfully to get the attention of Booker T. Washington, so that she could speak. She finally sprang to her feet, relating how she came from the cotton fields of the South, promoting herself into the business of manufacturing hair goods. "'My object in life is not simply to make money for myself, but to use part of what I make in trying to help others,' continued Madam Walker...With these words, Madam Walker proved herself more than equal to any man in that room."
|Sarah Breedlove Walker|
Abundantly illustrated with beautiful full color watercolor paintings by Nneka Bennett, Lasky's book is an inspirational tale that could be read aloud or read independently by children in elementary school.