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Arden, Elizabeth (31 December 1878?–18 October 1966), businesswoman, was born Florence Nightingale Graham (her legal name throughout life) in Woodbridge, near Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Graham and Susan Tadd, farmers. Florence would remain a citizen of Canada until she married an American, Thomas Jenkins Lewis, in 1915. Her mother died when Florence was a small child. Unable to finish high school because of her straitened finances, she entered nursing but found that she disliked working with sick people. She moved quickly through jobs as dental assistant, stenographer, and cashier and finally followed her brother William to New York City. By then she was about thirty, although her youthful complexion made her look about twenty. In 1908, as a cashier in a New York beauty salon, she persuaded her employer, Eleanor Adair, to teach her how to give facials, and she quickly mastered this “art of the healing hands.”...

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Bishop, Hazel (17 August 1906–05 December 1998), cosmetics executive, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Bishop, an entrepreneur who operated several small businesses, including a motion-picture distributorship, and Mabel Billington Bishop, who assisted in the businesses. Both parents were Jewish. Business discussions around the dinner table were typical family fare, and young Bishop and her brother were encouraged to participate. However, as a bright student with a scientific bent, she was not expected to choose a business career. Upon graduating from the Bergen School for Girls in Jersey City, Bishop enrolled at Barnard College in New York City in 1925 with the intention of becoming a physician. After successful completion of a pre-med program, she graduated in 1929 and planned to pursue medical studies at Columbia University. She began taking evening graduate school courses that fall at Columbia, but the collapse of the stock market in October and the ensuing economic depression put an end to her plans for medical school....

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Cochran, Jacqueline (1910?–09 August 1980), pioneer aviator and business executive, was born in Muscogee, Florida, near Pensacola. Her parents both died during her infancy, and she was raised by foster families with whom she worked in the lumber mills of the Florida panhandle. By the age of fifteen she had also worked in a Columbus, Georgia, cotton mill and learned how to cut hair in a beauty shop. Cochran took nursing training at a hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, from 1925 to 1928, but by 1930 she had returned to Pensacola to work in a beauty salon. In 1932 she traveled to Philadelphia to work in a beauty shop and then moved in the same year to New York City, where her skill earned her a job at Antoine’s, a well-known Saks Fifth Avenue beauty shop. For the next four years she worked for this business, spending every winter working in Antoine’s branch in Miami Beach, Florida. She met ...

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Walker, Madam C. J. (23 December 1867–25 May 1919), businesswoman, was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana, the daughter of Minerva (maiden name unknown) and Owen Breedlove, sharecroppers. Her destitute parents struggled mightily against the system of racism and oppression in the post–Civil War years but were defeated by it and died, leaving Sarah an orphan at six years of age. She lived next with her sister, Louvenia, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, but life was not much better there. In 1881, at the age of fourteen, she married Moses “Jeff” McWilliams, having one daughter, Lelia (later to call herself A’Lelia). In 1887 McWilliams was killed, possibly lynched during a race riot. Sarah Breedlove, twenty years old, barely literate, unskilled, and with a two-year-old child, faced a desperate situation. Leaving Mississippi, she headed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis where she became a washerwoman....