Science, Inventions, Medicine, and Aerospace

Black Women Inventors

What black woman patented a permanent wave machine?

Marjorie Stewart Joyner (1896–1994) was the first black to patent a permanent waving machine for hairstyling, in 1928, and became one of the first black women to receive a patent for an invention. She later developed a hair straightening comb. Joyner was an employee of Madam C. J. Walker, to whose company the patent was assigned. She eventually became national supervisor of the Walker organization’s chain of beauty schools. In 1916 Joyner, the first black graduate of A. B. Molar Beauty School in Chicago, opened her own salon. In 1945 she was a cofounder of the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association. (The graduates of these schools belong to the Alpha Phi Omega sorority and fraternity.) She organized the first Bud Billiken Parade in 1929—a benefit for delivery carriers of the black newspaper, the Chicago Defender. The granddaughter of slaves, Joyner was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the town of Monterey, Virginia. She was one of thirteen children, only four of whom lived beyond infancy. The family relocated to Dayton, Ohio, in 1904 and soon the parents divorced. Joyner lived with one family member and then another, finally settling in Chicago with her mother. Her high school education was interrupted until 1935, when she finally graduated. In the meantime, she received a music school certificate in 1924. It was not until 1973, when she was seventy-seven years old, that she received her bachelor’s degree from Bethune-Cookman College (now University) in Florida. There she was often called the “Godmother of Bethune-Cookman College.” She was also called the “Grand Dame of Black Beauty Culture.” Among her various honors, in 1990 the city of Chicago honored her by naming her birthday Marjorie Stewart Joyner Day


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