Reading this, I instantly thought of Booker T. Washington, “the wizard of Tuskegee,” who, while troubled by the black beauty industry, shared Walker’s obsession with cleanliness. In fact, Washington made it critical to his school’s curriculum, preaching “the gospel of the toothbrush,” writes Suellen Hoy in her interesting history, Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness . “I never see … an unpainted or unwhitewashed house that I do not want to paint or whitewash it,” Washington himself wrote in his memoir, Up From Slavery .
The 1980s and 1990s were a time of reaping the benefits from the hard work of women who worked tirelessly for their rightful place in the workforce as employees and entrepreneurs. Martha Stewart and Vera Bradley were among the twenty-first percent women who owned businesses. The public was also becoming more receptive and encouraging to these female entrepreneurs, acknowledging the valuable contribution they were making to the economy. The National Association of Women Business Owners helped to push Congress to pass the Women's Business Ownership Act in 1988 , which would end discrimination in lending and also strike down laws that required married women to acquire their husband's signature for all loans. In addition, the Act also gave women-owned businesses a chance to compete for government contracts.