Carina Guo – 2022 Flag House Scholar

Congratulations to our 2022 Flag House Scholar, Carina Guo! Carina fulfilled her obligation to read her essay on Flag Day in the video below. Please join us in congratulating Carina! The Flag House Scholar Award and Essay Contest Scholarship is generously sponsored by the Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Maryland and the Maryland State Society United States Daughters of 1812.

A bit about our winner:

Carina Guo is a senior attending the International Baccalaureate Program at Richard Montgomery High School. She is deeply passionate about intertwining her STEM and humanities education to benefit society and as the captain of her school’s National Debate Team, Math Team, and Computer Team. Beyond school, Carina loves engaging with diverse communities across the world as the Maryland President of Paper Bridges, which sends letters and educational resources to orphans in lower-income countries, and Beyond Resolved, which is dedicated to alleviating gender, race, and wealth-based inequalities in the debate activity. Carina also loves running, songwriting, and playing volleyball. Carina will matriculate to the Wharton School and School of Engineering Applied Sciences as part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Management & Technology Program.

2022 Question:

As a widow in the early 19th century, Mary Pickersgill’s decision to establish a flag-making business and her successes as president of the Impartial Female Humane Society, a women’s advocacy organization, characterized entrepreneurship, courage, resourcefulness, and intelligence. Read the linked brief histories about Mary and the other women in her household and write an essay of no more than 350 words recognizing a woman who, to you, exemplifies these traits and has overcome barriers to achieve success in their profession.

Carina’s Essay :

When considering women who have displayed immense versatility, entrepreneurship, and courage, it is vital to acknowledge Madam C.J. Walker. After experiencing extraordinary levels of hardship during her youth, Walker’s initiative to become who numerous historians recognize as the first African-American “self-made woman” is truly notable.

Just as Mary and Caroline Pickersgill’s flag-making business displayed remarkable resourcefulness after the death of John Pickersgill, the male head of household, Walker’s entrepreneurship followed an early life of loss and solitude. Born in 1867, she was the first in her family to be free at birth due to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, Walker was orphaned at merely seven years old, married at fourteen years old, and widowed six years later. Left to her own devices, she needed a new path—now as a single mother.

Inspiration struck when Walker developed a scalp disorder, losing much of her hair. Noticing that there was an unaddressed demand in the market for health-based hair products, Walker started her own company in 1910. Her “Walker System” differentiated itself with its homemade, health-conscience products, as well as her personalized approach to marketing with a group of saleswomen (termed “beauty culturalists”). After divorcing her second husband, the rise of the Madam C.J. Walker Company grew exponentially into a business empire, making Walker a self-made millionaire.

Walker ultimately used her economic success to contribute to society with philanthropy, in a similar vein to Mary Pickersgill’s efforts to employ widows at her business and use profits to educate orphans. Walker’s fortune helped fund bonuses to her employees that gave back to their communities, provide scholarships for the education of women, and donate to dozens of African American civil rights groups like the NAACP. Additionally, in the face of limited employment opportunities for Black women, Walker mandated that only a woman could serve as president of her company.

Madam C.J. Walker demonstrated not just independence and entrepreneurial spirit while paving her distinct pathway, but also her kindness and activism while giving back to society. Undoubtedly a pioneer of her time, she continues to be an inspiration for entrepreneurial women today.