Madame C.J. Walker, the first Black female millionaire and an innovator in hair and cosmetics, boasts one of the most recognizable names in Black history.
The woman credited with creating the hot comb was born Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker but donned her trademark Madame C.J. moniker.
In all actuality she did not invent the hair-straightening tool but adapted it to have wider teeth making it easier to use on Black hair.
Born to slaves, Walker worked as a washwoman before experimenting and vying for a product that promoted hair growth.
A victim of hair loss herself, Walker developed her “Wonderful Hair Grower” which promoted a healthy scalp reportedly through the use of sulfur.
Her growth ointment, along with a hair oil, scalp treatment and hot comb became known as the “Walker System” used by Black women to straighten their hair.
Walker went on to establish Lelia College in Pittsburgh to train beauticians on using her system and generated enough wealth to become a philanthropist.
She died in 1919 reportedly from a stroke.