By the time Madam C. J. Walker left Indianapolis in early 1916, she had built a business that spanned the entire nation and beyond. She was employing 20,000 agents, and according to newspaper reports, was making six figures a year.
In 1918, when Madam Walker moved into her newly completed mansion, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington on the Hudson, New York, the contrast between where she began and the wealth and power she had accrued could not have been starker. Few other people of any race or gender had achieved so much in such a short time.
She was not satisfied with simply enriching herself. Madam Walker considered her business a mechanism for uplifting women of her race and—on a larger dimension—the African American community. Her agents were able to make far more money in a week than the average black woman nationally. Additionally, Walker organized her agents into a national society that provided a valuable network for social uplift. Finally, she set up schools across the nation to teach the Walker System and provide women a path to economic independence.
“I first want to say that I did not succeed by traversing a path strewn with roses. I made great sacrifices, met with rebuff after rebuff, and had to fight hard to put my ideas into effect”- Madam C. J. Walker