God bless this woman and her brilliant mind.
As evidenced by the viral mocking of Kevin Durant’s…unfettered follicles, the issue of Black hair is still a major issue and one of the most important components of managing our many textures is the hairbrush. While we fully celebrate all types of hair, natural, relaxed, wigs, weaves, everything from 2A to 4C, the fact of the matter is that we all need a proper brush. Well, everyone except those with locs but we digress. Point is, that we owe Lyda Newman a LOT for helping us look like our best selves.
Newman was born in Ohio between 1865 and 1885 according to the Lemelson-MIT website. Obviously, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly when she was born because Black women weren’t always deemed worthy of space in the public record. It is known that she spent a good amount of her life working as a hairdresser in New York. As we already know, many products weren’t designed with Black people in mind and thus don’t work for us the same way they would on our caucasian counterparts. Sista Newton recognized this problem and decided to do something about it.
Brushes at the time were made of animal hair which was too soft and too fine to efficiently tame Black hair and that’s where Ms. Newman comes into play. She took the then-design and made it tenable for us by changing from the animal hair to synthetic fibers that are thicker and easier to clean when the time comes. On November 15, 1898 she received a U.S. patent for her invention.
Beyond her life-altering invention, Newman was also a major player in the Black women’s suffrage movement because, once again, the white product was not good enough to help Black people.
Thank you, Lyda Newman. You’re a forever queen.