Marjorie Joyner

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Patent image of permanent wave machine invented in 1928 by Marjorie Joyner

Marjorie Stewart Joyner (October 24, 1896 – December 27, 1994) was an American businesswoman. She was born in 1896, in Monterey, Virginia. She was the granddaughter of a slave owner and a slave. In 1912, she moved to Chicago and began studying cosmetology. She graduated A.B. Molar Beauty School in Chicago in 1916, the first African American to achieve this. There she met Madam C. J. Walker, an African American beauty entrepreneur, and the owner of a cosmetic empire. Always an advocate of beauty for women, Joyner went to work for her and oversaw 200 of Madame Walker's beauty schools as the national advisor. Supervised over 200 Walker beauty schools after madame C.J. Walkers death

Permanent wave design[edit]

Patent image sheet 2

In 1939, she started looking for an easier way for black women to straighten their hair, taking her inspiration from a pot roast cooking with paper pins to quicken preparation time. Joyner experimented initially with these paper rods and soon designed a table that could be used to curl or straighten hair by wrapping it on rods above the person's head and then cooking them to set the hair. This method allowed hairstyles to last several days. Her patent for this design, (U.S. pat. #1,693,515) established her as the first African American woman to receive a patent. This claim is disputed by some who say that Sarah E. Goode was the first African American woman to hold a patent.

It is sometimes falsely cited that Joyner was the original inventor of this type of machine, called the permanent wave, or perm. Her design was an alternative version of Karl Nessler's groundbreaking invention, invented in England during the late 19th century and patented in London in 1909 and again in the United States in 1925.(U.S. Patent 1,522,258)

Joyner's design was popular in salons with both African American and white women. The patent was credited to Madame Walker's company and she received almost no money for it. In 1967, she co-founded the United Beauty School Owners and teachers Association. In 1973, at the age of 77, she was awarded a bachelor's degree in psychology from Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Currently, her papers reside in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of African-American History and Literature at the Chicago Public Library.


Patent image sheet 3

"If I can take pot roast rods and have a one-of-a-kind invention, believe me, people can do what they set their minds to."


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