For Women’s History Month, I’m excited to share a book about a strong, successful woman named Martha Matilda Harper.
I had never heard of this extraordinary person until reading Martha the Hairpreneur: From Servant to Business Empress. I’m pretty sure a lot of other people don’t know about her either, which is a shame because she invented something that is part of everyday life now, and she paved a path for more hair entrepreneurs.
Martha came up with the idea for the hair salon and salon chair, despite people’s simple-mindedness about a woman-run business. Her devoted customers included influential women like Susan B. Anthony, Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson!
I liked the way the authors, Jane R. Plitt and Sally Valentine, “choreographed” the story by sequencing it in an interesting way. That is hard to explain, but they didn’t just state facts about Martha’s life. They presented it like a fiction story, with recurring dialogue and frequently expressing feelings of the characters.
I also loved how the authors really emphasized the message of the story: anyone can do something great. When Martha was 6 years old, her parents sent her to be servant for her uncle. But in her heart she longed to not work for someone else.
She was in love with her marvelous floor-length hair, so she decided to work in the industry of hair. Although some laughed at the idea of a woman starting a business, Martha did it anyway. This was really impressive because she lived in a time when even some women believed they weren’t equal to men.
Not only did she open the first hair salon in 1888 and invent the first shampoo chair, but she also helped women know they mattered, hiring some who used to be servants to work in her salon. She told them that their job didn’t define them. They weren’t shy, timid people anymore, because Martha let them be themselves.
Another hairprenuer I know about is Madam C.J. Walker. Martha reminds me of her because they both worked in the hair industry, created hair products, had beautiful hair, and didn’t let people’s sexist or racist opinions stop them from achieving what they desired.
Martha the Hairpreneur is for anyone ages 8 and up, or for any reader who needs inspiration for starting a business. Jane Plitt also wrote a cute board book about Martha for younger readers and a non-fiction book for people who want to learn more.
Martha the Hairpreneur awesome book and it gets four out of four roses!