Annie Turnbo Malone became a millionaire early in the 20th century, when a million bucks still meant something.
And she did it the hard way: as a black woman without formal education. Against all odds, she combined an innate skill in caring for hair with an unquenchable desire to succeed to create a national beauty care product company. In the process, she gave jobs to thousands of African-American women who sold her products door to door like early-day Avon Ladies and even started a college for women that taught skills for success.
Her unlikely journey began in Metropolis, Ill. Annie Turnbo (1869-1957) was the 10th of 11 children born to former slaves. Her parents died when she was still a toddler, so Turnbo was sent to live with an older sister in Peoria.