Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

EconKids Home New Picture Books in 2006 and Earlier Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker / by Kathryn Lasky, ill. Nneka Bennett

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker / by Kathryn Lasky, ill. Nneka Bennett


Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker
Author:  Kathryn Lasky 
Illustrator:  Nneka Bennett
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 076360253-1
Year: 2000

Concepts: innovation, human resources, entrepreneurship, discrimination, racial inequality, poverty

  Sarah Breedlove Walker, one of the wealthiest women in the United States and owner of the largest black-owned company during the early 1900s, started her life in extreme poverty.  A child of former slaves who worked as sharecroppers in the South, Sarah spent long, grueling hours helping her family by carrying water, picking cotton, pushing a plow, and digging potatoes.  Getting an education was hampered not only by the demands of farm life, but also by terrifying acts of violence committed by the Ku Klux Klan and witnessed firsthand by Sarah.

As a young adult, Sarah despaired at the toll that an inadequate diet and hard labor had taken on her hair, which was so brittle that she had started to go bald.  Inspired by the air of confidence surrounding role models such as Margaret Washington, wife of Booker T., Sarah began working with natural ingredients to develop hair care products designed specifically for the needs of black women.  Not only did she develop an innovative line of beauty products, she also created a highly successful company ‒ the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company ‒ and she became a leading philanthropist.

This carefully-researched book gets top marks for shining the spotlight on one of the most influential U.S. business leaders who made her riches despite the institutionalized discrimination she faced at the time against women and against blacks. The stunning illustrations work extremely well in adding to the emotional and historical context. Parents and teachers seeking to teach children about entrepreneurship will value this biographical work.

Review by:
 Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children 

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