Madam C.J. Walker’s Daughter: A’Lelia Walker in Real Life

Netflix Madam C.J. Walker as portrayed in the new Netflix series.

Madam C.J. Walker, the inspiration for Netflix’s new series Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, had only one child. Her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, played an important role in her mother’s business and was a successful businesswoman of her own, following in her mother’s footsteps. A’Lelia Bundles, the great-great-granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker, wrote a fascinating story with an inside look at A’Lelia Walker here. Below is a quick look at who A’Lelia Walker was in real life.


A’Lelia Walker’s Father Died When She Was Just Two

A’Lelia Walker (born Lelia McWilliams) was born to Madam C.J. Walker (born as Sarah Breedlove) and her first husband, Moses McWilliams. Moses died seven years after they were married, leaving Madam C.J. as a widow and a single mother of a two-year-old, Philanthropy Roundtable shared. She and her daughter moved to St. Louis to live with three of Madam C.J.’s brothers.

In 1894, after Madam C.J. was married to a man who was abusive, she sent A’Lelia to Knoxville College and left her husband a few years later.

Although never legally adopted by Charles Walker, her mother’s third husband, A’Lelia ultimately adopted the name for herself to identify more closely with her mother’s business. Although she and her mother were close, an employee once said they were like “fire and ice” because “they loved each other dearly and they sometimes fought fiercely.”


She Inherited Her Mother’s Mansion & Became President of Her Mother’s Company After She Died

In 1916, after she moved to New York so she could be closer to A’Lelia, Madam C.J. decided to build her beautiful mansion that still stands today. It was designed by Vertner Tandy and cost $250,000. The villa had a swimming pool, marble floor, and was based on Italian Renaissance architecture The 34-room, 20,000-square-foot home is 30 miles north of New York City, in a neighborhood where the Rockefellers and Astors also lived, New York Post reported.

Tragically, Madam C.J. had only lived there about a year when heartbreaking tragedy struck and she died of kidney failure. A’Lelia took over the home and entertained guests there, New York Post reported. But she also entertained guests at her apartment and her town house regularly, AAREG reported.

A’Lelia became president of her mother’s company after her mother’s death, New York Post reported. Before that, she had managed the business’s east coast operations and persuaded her mother to start a Harlem office. She headed fundraising for charities and founded the Harlem Debutantes Club.

She was known for hosting prominent social events in the 1920s. She remained president of her mother’s company until she died in August 1931 of a cerebral hemorrhage from hypertension on the same day that she was hosting a birthday party for a friend. Hypertension also led to her mother’s death in 1919.


Her Adopted Daughter Mae Took Over the Family Company After She Died

A’Lelia’s only child was her adopted daughter, Mae Walker. Mae was president from 1931 until she died in 1945. Mae’s daughter, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles, then became president of the company.

A’Lelia was married three times. Her first marriage was to John Robinson, a waiter. Her second was to Dr. Wiley Wilson in 1919, shortly after her mom’s death. Her third marriage was to Dr. James Arthur Kennedy in 1926, a World War I captain. They divorced just a few months before A’Lelia died.


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A’Lelia Bundles, great-great-granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker, was named after A’Lelia Walker and wrote the biography upon which the Netflix series is based, Indianapolis Monthly reported.

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