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Madam C.J. Walker: Haircare Entrepreneur

February 22, 2023 | Kristen Jordan

Last week, our focus for Black History Month was Madam C.J. Walker.  She was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist who rose from poverty in the South to become one of the wealthiest African American women of her time. As an adult, feeling the strain of years of physical labor and facing hair loss, she developed her own hair products and straighteners for African American Women and turned these products into a very successful business. 

An advocate for Black women’s economic independence, she hired, trained, and paid women well, to sell her company’s products.  Not only was she financially successful herself, she was generous in her outreach to others, donating much of her money to charity and advocating for rights for Black Americans.

As the children learned about Madam C.J. Walker’s life, they had the opportunity to respond creatively through drama, conversation, painting and creating different hairstyles.  After hearing about her entrepreneurial Black hair care business, the children discussed how they take care of their hair, who helps them care for it, where they get it cut, etc.  

Andrew: “Daddy always fixes it. He does it on the side.  He uses sometimes gel, sometimes water, always a a hairbrush. But I like it crazy.” 

Margot: “Mommy uses her hand and a comb.”

Elijah: “Mommy and Grandma fix my hair.”

Hannah: “I have 2 brushes.  One hurts. One does not!”

Maddox: “I get my haircut at home and at a barbers.”

Juliette: “I don’t like to go in the bath tub.  I go in the water.  Mommy scrub my hair and I dump the water on me.” 

We also enjoyed a visit from a special first grade guest speaker, Ms Buckley’s son, who came to talk about what he uses to care for his hair.  

After reading the books Happy Hair and Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe, the children painted Black hairstyles inspired by the illustrations and created other hairstyles using yarn and decorative details.

Children also enjoyed operating their very own Bear Hair Salon!  

We enjoyed learning about Madam C.J. Walker’s successes!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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