I’ve talked a lot over the years about one of my mentors, Madame C.J. Walker. You can learn more here on here. But, have you heard of Annie Turnbo Malone? Madame C.J. Walker started out working for Annie Turnbo Malone.
Annie Turnbo Malone was one of the first black, self-made female millionaires, cosmetic formulator, manufacturer, businesswoman, educator and philanthropist.
Annie Turnbo was born on a farm in Illinois on August 9, 1877 (or possible 1869). Her mother and father were former slaves. She was the 10th child born of the 11 children in her family. When she was a toddler, her parents died. She went to live with her older sister. She was often sick and missed high school. At school she took an interest in chemistry in her chemistry class. She was passionate about hair and started to make her own hair care products. During this time, black women used heavy animal fats and oils on their hair to straighten it to conform to white society and this caused scalp and hair issues.
Annie Turnbo wanted something different than the extreme hard life with no opportunities being a black woman. She developed her own hair care line of hair-straighteners, scalp stimulants and oils that did not cause scalp issues and hair loss. Annie and the women she hired sold her Wonderful Hair Grower door to door. A free hair treatment was given to the woman that purchased her product. Annie was instrumental in the way African American women changed the way they cared for their hair.
In 1902, Annie opened her shop due to the demand for her product, advertising and traveling to spread the news about her products. In 1903, Annie was married and divorced in 1907. Annie hired many women to sell her products, Madam C.J. Walker (at that time was Sarah Breedlove Davis) was one of the women selling her products. Due to conflict Madam C.J. Walker left the company, taking with her the Poro product formula. Annie pursued copyrighting her products under the name Poro. With her growing business, in 1910, Annie moved to a larger facility.
In 1914 Annie married Eugene Malone. In 1918, Annie established a cosmetology school Poro College, for women. The students were trained on how to dress, walk, talk for a personal style to help them succeed. At the college there was a large center including a business office, a store selling her products, manufacturing plant, dormitory, garden and chapel that supported the African American community.
In the 1920’s Annie became a multi-millionaire, extremely wealthy and she gave a lot to the black community. She served as president for St. Louis Colored Orphans Home and later renamed Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center.
Annie employed thousands of African-American women and paid them well ensuring opportunities for advancement.
In 1927, her husband filed for divorce, demanded half of the value of her business. With the support of her employees and others, Annie bought out her husband for $200.000 and became the sole owner of Poro College.
Annie Tumbo Malone died on May 10, 1957 after a stroke in Chicago. She had no children and her estate went to her nieces and nephews.
A yearly Anne Malone parade is held in St. Louis to support children’s charities.