She was a millionaire black businesswoman. She was an entrepreneur. And she became known as one of the most important business executives in the black community.
Sarah Spencer Washington, commonly referred to as “Madame Washington” was born on June 6, 1889 in Beckley, Virginia. She attended Norfolk Mission College and her first job was as a dressmaker.
In 1913, she started a hairdressing business in Atlantic City, and eventually expanded the business teaching students and also developing beauty products. After noting the lack of beauty products for African Americans, in 1920 Washington founded the Apex News & Hair Company. A lab and school were maintained in Atlantic City and an office in New York City.
The beauty colleges became extremely successful with colleges located in 12 states and in total there were 35,000 agents throughout the world.
In addition to the beauty colleges, she founded a nursing home – Apex Rest – for the elderly in Atlantic City and established the Apex Golf and Country Club in Pomona The Apex Golf on May 1st, 1947. She founded an African-American Easter Parade on the boardwalk. Washington suffered a stroke in 1947 and became paralyzed. After Washington’s death on March 23, 1953, her daughter, Joan Cross Washington led the Apex Company until it was eventually sold.