Annie Malone was born in Metropolis, Illinois, where she lived with her eleven siblings until both of their parents had died. She was sent upstate to be raised by her elder sister in Peoria. While there, Malone took an early interest in hair textures. In the 1890s, she started looking for better methods of hair care for African-American women. Many women used goose fat and heavy oils to straighten their thick curls, which damaged both scalp and hair.
By the beginning of the 1900s, Annie Malone began to revolutionize hair care methods for all African Americans. She created a variety of hair care treatments, including the first patented hot comb, which preceded the one popularized by an early employee of hers, Madam C.J. Walker, who was one of 75,000 Poro Agents. As early as 1902, she and her assistants sold her unique brand of hair care products door to door. She called it Poro, a West African name meaning physical and spiritual growth.
By 1917, as United States entered World War I, Annie Malone had become so successful that she founded and opened Poro College in St. Louis. It was the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study and teaching of black cosmetology. The school employed nearly 200 people. Its curriculum included instructions to train students on personal style to present themselves at work: on walking, talking and style of dress designed to maintain a solid public persona.
By the 1920s, Annie Malone had become a multi-millionaire; she continued to share her great wealth. She donated her money to, and served as president of, the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home. With her help, in 1922 it bought a facility at 2612 Annie Malone Drive (formally Goode Ave.) It continues to serve from the historic Ville neighborhood. Upgraded and expanded, the facility was renamed in her honor as the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center.
In 1930 and entering her 60s, Malone moved her headquarters to Chicago where she continued to operate Poro College. In 1957 Annie Malone, one of the first African-American female entrepreneurs, died of a stroke in Chicago's Provident Hospital at the age of 87.
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BOBSA's mission is to establish African American and Black owned beauty supply stores nationally and internationally. We are advocates for black institutions that depend on beauty supply stores and their distribution networks for support to operate competitive hair care services for the black community.