Lyda O. Newman
(Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist, Inventor)
African-American women played an integral part in the development of hair-care products in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. While Madame C.J. Walker and Marjorie Joyner are two of the most famous women inventors in this respect, another inventor – Lydia Newman – also played an important role.
While she was not the original inventor of the hair brush, Lyda Newman’s improvements to the brush made her a significant contributor to its evolution. Granted a patent for her invention in 1898, Newman’s brush was the first hairbrush with synthetic bristles (prior to that brushes were made from animal hair, such as boar’s hair). But Newman’s brush also had several other unique innovations.
Most notably, Lyda Newman’s hair brush invention was designed to promote ventilation and provide storage for excess hair or impurities. As noted in Newman’s patent: “The object of the invention is to provide a new and improved hair brush which is simple and durable in construction, very effective when in use, and arranged to permit of conveniently cleaning the brush whenever desired.”
With Newman’s innovative brush, impurities pulled from the scalp or hair would pass through the openings or slots in the brush to a recess in the back. The impurities could then be emptied from the brush by disconnecting the holder and dumping or blowing them out. Easy access to the bristles also permitted the user to clean them out whenever necessary.