Sorority Sisters, Professional Rivals

I’m still in a Chicago frame of mind, and I’m not quite sure when I’ll snap out of it. One of the Chicago-Zeta topics that I keep getting stuck on was how executives of two of the biggest black beauty empires—Poro College and the Madam C. J. Walker Company—could be members of the same sorority and live in the same city.

Annie Turnbo Malone, founder and head of Poro College, and Marjorie Stewart Joyner, vice president of the Walker Company, national supervisor of its beauty schools and one of Walker’s most trusted aids, were both Zetas living and working in Chicago.051313_2332_SororitySis1.jpg

Annie T. Malone

Joyner made Chicago her home in 1912 and personally managed the Walker beauty school in Chicago. Malone’s arrival in the early 1930s appears to be an encroachment on her turf, especially since Malone bought an entire block of houses for Poro’s new headquarters…near the Walker beauty school. Malone’s new digs served as a frequent meeting place for the Chicago Zetas to host special events, rush parties and regional meetings. In fact, in October 1938, Malone opened her residence to Chicago’s Zeta Zeta and Alpha Alpha Chapters to host a dinner for the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Joyner was listed as one of the Alpha Alpha Chapter member in attendance. I just wonder, was it intolerable to be there?


Although I can’t see how they’d be friends, given Malone’s disdain for Madam C. J. Walker for not receiving credit for launching her career. Perhaps Malone’s feelings did not transfer to Joyner. They worked on national cosmetology initiatives, and in some ways they seem to be more similar than not. Both seem to have spent their lives giving to worthy causes and died relatively poor as a result. Both seem to have espoused the same desire to have a “life well-lived” rather than live lavishly. I’m sure they respected each other; perhaps they even liked each other.

Hmm…I can’t wait to see what historical records will turn up on this subject.

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