Madam C.J. Walker's Granddaughter's Story Is Almost As Fascinating As Her Own

  • Madame CJ Walker’s granddaughter, Fairy Mae Bryant, eventually went on to take over the family business, as portrayed in Netflix’s Self-Made.
  • Fairy Mae was adopted by A’Lelia Walker at age 15.
  • Fairy Mae had an arranged marriage that didn’t last long.

Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker tells the amazing story of Sarah Breedlove (a.k.a. Madam C.J. Walker) who was one of America’s first self-made female millionaires. The movie, which is based on real-life events, follows Madam C.J. on her quest to create a haircare business for black women.

While the movie focuses on Madame C.J.’s journey, it also touches on her family members, like her daughter A’Lelia Walker, and granddaughter Fairy Mae Bryant. A’Lelia helped turn her mother’s business into an empire and ended up running it before her death from hypertension (the same disease that killed her mother). And Fairy Mae also eventually took over running the business from her mom.

But who was Fairy Mae, exactly? Here’s what you need to know.

She was adopted.

Fairy Mae was adopted by A’Lelia in 1912 when Fairy Mae was 15, according to a profile on Madame C.J. on the Indiana state government’s website.

She had an arranged marriage.

A’Lelia actually orchestrated her daughter’s marriage to Dr. Gordon H. Jackson, who was the son of a rich Cincinnati coal dealer, according to a blog run by Madam C.J. Walker’s great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles (who is the granddaughter of Fairy Mae).

Her wedding was a BFD.

Bundles says her grandmother’s wedding was “Harlem’s social event of the season and of the year.” More than 9,000 people celebrated the wedding, which cost the equivalent of $600,000 today.

Fairy Mae was in love with someone else.

Total scandal alert: Bundles writes in her blog that Fairy Mae was in love with a man named Sol. Fairy Mae confided this to her friend Anita Thompson, who was the daughter of a Los Angeles NAACP official and an aspiring actress. Anita tried to convince Fairy Mae to elope with Sol, but Fairy Mae was too scared to defy her mom. So, she married Gordon, who was much older than her.

Her marriage didn’t last.

A year after having her son, Walker in 1926, Fairy Mae started divorce proceedings against Gordon. Four years later, she married Marion Rowland Perry, a University of Pittsburgh Law School graduate and second generation Lincoln University alumnus, Bundles writes.

She eventually took over the family business.

A’Lelia died in 1931 and Fairy Mae took over the cosmetics company. She ran it until she died in 1945.

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