Photo Source: @breannaopheliabryan
Photo Source: @breannaopheliabryan
Marjorie Stewart Joyner born in 1896 in Virginia was the granddaughter of a slave and a slave owner. When she reached the age of 16 she decided to pursue a career in cosmetology and became the first black woman to graduate from the beauty school, A.B. Molar Beauty School.
At the age of 20, Marjorie decided to follow the entrepreneurial path by opening a beauty salon. From there, she was introduced to another beauty entrepreneur, the well-known Madam C.J. Walker who owned a large number of beauty businesses across the United States. Following Madam C.J. Walker death in 1919, Marjorie was left in charge of the entrepreneur’s companies.
One thing that Marjorie noticed with black women’s hair is that it was a struggle to straighten their curly hair as there were only limited options available. Straightening curly hair was a really long process since women had to use a stove-heated curling iron and use it one section of hair at a time. Madam Joyner decided to solve this problem by creating the “Permanent Waving Machine”, a machine which enabled women to get straight hair for days but also defined curls.
Her invention allowed to set women’s entire head at the same time. In 1926, Marjorie won a patent for her creation and became the first African-American woman to receive a patent for an invention.
Photo(s) source(s): inventors.about.com
Depending on your neighbourhood, there will be a beauty salon, hairdressers or hair product shop available for you to get your must-have hair products. But where did the idea of selling black hair products on a mass scale come from? And who looked at this niche market as a means of basing a successful business on? The answer is Madam C.J. Walker.
Born on December 23rd 1867 into a family of sharecroppers, Walker was named Sarah Breedlove at birth and turned an uneducated background into a hair product dynasty that can be highly admired today. Her name which has been largely documented in history, derived from placing ‘Madam’ before her third husband’s name C.J. Walker.
In the 1890s, Walker suffered from scalp ailments so decided to create homemade remedies as well as, also using products from the Annie Malone brand – a black female entrepreneur at the time. From growing up in humble beginnings, Walker became a sales agent in 1905 for the Malone brand, after moving to Denver – the place in which she met and married her third husband.
After her name change, Walker decided to found her own business in which she sold a formula which helped heal and condition the scalp. It is said that the idea for Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower came to her by way of a dream she had and by looking at these pictures here, you can see why this product would have been so popular at this time. Some of the ingredients used in the formula had to be sent for in Africa but because of the her dream, Walker took the necessary steps to get them in her possession.
To promote her hair products, Walker travelled throughout heavily populated black areas in and sold door to door. In 1908, Walker opened the Lelia College (named after her daughter A’ Lelia) as a means of training hair culturists, to help people learn how to care for their hair. Walker hired Walker Agents to help sell her products on a wider scale and created a national association and cash incentives for them in order to instil loyalty amongst them; she also did not want to be the only one benefiting from her success.
Walker was widely acknowledged and recognised for her entrepreneurial skills and philanthropy, as she can be regarded as America’s first female, self-made millionaire.
With pinnacle women in our history such as Walker, we can pave the way for even stronger, ambitious women in the next generation.
Madam C.J. Walker…we salute you!
During the 1800s, the product junkies that we have today would have been unheard of, as the slave trade meant that hair maintenance was left down to items that were readily available.
Bombarded with the mindset that straighter, longer hair was ‘good’ hair (otherwise known as the European look), many slaves took it upon themselves to experiment with goods that could be used for the same affect that relaxers gives us today. Some concoctions consisted of Lye mixed with potatoes, which often left the scalp burnt is not applied properly. Other methods of hair straightening, included oiling the hair and wrapping sections using pieces of material, not to dissimilar to the method ‘Banding’ that we use today. Many men also straightened their hair using a mixture of eggs, potatoes and Lye, which was known as a Conk. Conks were used up until the 1960s and could be done in the home or by a professional Barber.
The 1800s was a time when not as many ships carrying slaves were sent to America. This meant that slaves could not be worked as hard and came at a much higher price. Because of the hard hours enforced each week, slaves kept their hair wrapped up from Monday to Saturday in a rag, scarf or handkerchief. Sunday was the only day when slaves paid close attention to hair maintenance, as laws were introduced that allowed this day to be given as time off.
Hair was moisturised using the likes of butter, goose fat and other oils that could be located in the kitchen. To clean the hair, kerosene and cornmeal could be used, whilst coffee could be use to dye the hair naturally.
Contrary to belief, ‘wool’ hair as it was referred to by non African-Americans of this time, was was very soft and grew fairly long. This was due to the fact that the hair didn’t experience much manipulation and was kept covered for the majority of the time. Practices like low manipulation hairstyles can definitely be applied to lifestyles of today if we aim to promote healthy growing hair and with the use of the right products (natural or otherwise), our beautiful ‘good’ hair will definitely shine through.