The story of African American women’s philanthropy would have to include Madam C. J. Walker, founder of a beauty empire more than a century ago. With the nation currently focused on racial and economic equity issues, it is fitting that we examine the life of this activist philanthropist who made her home, Villa Lewaro, in Westchester’s Irvington-on-Hudson.


In his new biography, Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving, author Tyrone McKinley Freeman, captures the trajectory of her life:


“Black. Female. Daughter of slaves. Orphan. Child laborer. Widowed young mother. Penniless migrant. Poor washerwoman. Philanthropist. Before she became known as ‘the first self-made female millionaire’ in the United States, Madam C. J. W