Throughout history, women have marked their own paths and founded businesses that are still successful decades later. Even if it was unheard of in their generation for a woman to own a business, they were able to beat the odds and establish themselves as successful businesswomen. These are the most iconic female entrepreneurs throughout history:

Margaret Hardenbroeck

At just the ripe age of 22, Margaret Hardenbroeck arrived in New Amsterdam, which is now New York, from the Netherlands in 1659. With an unbeatable work ethic, she already had a job with her cousin lined up collecting debts. After her wealthy merchant husband, Pieter de Vries, died in 1661, Maraget inherited his estate and took over his business of selling small goods like cooking oil to the colonists and buying furs to send to Holland. By expanding fur shipping operations in Holland, she soon became the most successful and wealthiest she-merchant in the colony and was eventually able to purchase her own ship, the King Charles as well as accumulate real estate holdings throughout the colonies. Margaret Hardenbroeck died in 1691 as the wealthiest woman in New York.

Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Eliza Lucas Pinckney, as America’s first important agriculturalist, introduced blue indigo dye into continental North America. Born in Antigua 1722, she attended a finishing school in London, which helped her find her love for botany. When she moved to the United States at a young age, her father acquired three plantations. By the age of 16, Eliza Lucas took over the plantations. She began making a high-quality blue indigo dye in 1739 after seeing the growing textile industry created a need for new dyes. Because she created blue indigo dye, which ranked second to rice as a South Carolina export crop, Eliza Lucas Pinckney went on to become the first woman inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1989.

Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker was born as Sarah Breedlove on a Louisiana plantation on December 23, 1867. Walker’s first husband died six years after having their first daughter and she then moved to St. Louis to work as a laundress and cook so she could provide a life free from poverty for her daughter. She later worked as a sales agent for Annie Turnbo Malone’s hair care company which inspired her to create a hair-growing tonic. Walker started selling it door-to-door and the business quickly grew. She renamed herself Madam C.J. Walker after marrying her second husband, Charles Joseph Walker. Walker launched Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a line of hair care for black women. This revolutionary product launched a business that was earning $500,000 a year. Madame C.J. Walker’s individual financial worth reached $1 million by the time she died. 

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