There Is No Royal and Flower Strewn Road To Success

Madam C. J. Walker? Sarah J. Walker? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The cosmetics entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker once spoke to a journalist about her enormous accomplishments. She indicated that her pathway to success was not strewn with flowers, and her ascent required hard work and sleepless nights. Would please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1917 “The New York Times” interviewed Sarah J. Walker (Madam C. J. Walker) about her recently constructed mansion and her thriving cosmetics company. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

What wealth is hers, she says, had been acquired through perseverance, persistency, and hard work. “Perseverance”, she remarked the other day, “is my motto.” . . .

“I was born forty-nine years ago,” she said in speaking of her life, “was married at 14, and was left a widow at 20 with a little girl to support. If I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard. I never yet started anything doubtingly, and I have always believed in keeping at things with a vim.

In 1919 “The Dallas Express” published a piece about Walker that included her remark about flowers: 2

At another time when asked about her great success Madam Walker said, “There is no royal and flower strewn road to success, and if there is I have not found it for what success I have obtained is the result of many sleepless nights and real hard work. I had all kinds of doubters and skeptics to deal with; the principal obstacle I had to deal with was the traditional distrust and incredulity of the public, owing to their having often been deceived with worthless preparations  . . .

Walker died in May 1919 a few months after the article above was printed.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is No Royal and Flower Strewn Road To Success


  1. 1917 November 4, New York Times, Section: The New York Times Magazine, Wealthiest Negro Woman’s Suburban Mansion, Quote Page 4, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1919 March 29, The Dallas Express, The World’s Famous Hair Culturist Puts New Toilet Articles On The Market, Quote Page 4, Column 7, Dallas, Texas. (Newspapers_com)