Building a Beauty Empire

Walker Theatre CenterIn 1867, when Sarah Breedlove was born to former slaves on a Louisiana plantation, no one imagined she would found a beauty empire and become a self-made millionaire. Orphaned by seven, married at 14, and a widow by 20, young Sarah took her daughter and moved to St. Louis to join her brothers.

But when another setback caused Sarah’s hair to fall out, she wasn’t about to give up. Her search for a cure drove her to launch a business that would include training schools for sales reps and beauty advisors (years before the empire-building example of Mary Kay Ash, who would found Mary Kay Cosmetics).

By the time she died in 1919, the persistent young Sarah had become known as Madam C. J. Walker—self-made millionaire, business tycoon, and philanthropist. Check out the video and some great archival photos at Biography.

Enchantress of Numbers

Ada LovelaceAda Byron was just 15 years old when she designed a flying machine back in 1828. Today we know her as Ada Lovelace, the founder of scientific computing (she even foresaw the invention of digital music). But it was no accident that young Ada was pushed to study math and music.

Her father was the Romantic poet Lord Byron. “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” he abandoned the family just after Ada was born. Fearing that little Ada would have the same impetuous, poetic traits, her mother decided math was a sure cure.

Ada went on to become, arguably, the first person to write a computer program and was later called the Enchantress of Numbers. Check out this video for even more fascinating facts on her life.

The Diva Mummy

Eyelashes, twenty layers of silk, and a perfectly sealed tomb. What do they all have in common? The Diva Mummy, of course.

The Diva Mummy’s real name was Xin Zhui, the wife of an imperial ruler during the Han Dynasty. But as fascinating as her life must have been, she’s also the best preserved mummy ever found.

Believe it or not, her four layers of coffins were so perfectly sealed that, even after 2,000 years, her hair and eyebrows were still intact and her blood was still red. The twenty layers of silk she was wrapped in probably helped—but scientists still haven’t unravelled all of her mysteries, including the unknown liquid that preserved her.

The Khan Academy has more of the Diva Mummy’s fascinating tale, including photos of her elaborate funeral banner.