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 white 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 adviser. A major role was sending Walker's hair stylists door-to-door, dressed in black skirts and white blouses with black satchels containing a range of beauty products that were applied in the customer's house. Joyner taught some 15,000 stylists over her fifty-year career. She was also a leader in developing new products, such as her permanent wave machine. She helped write the first cosmetology laws for the state of Illinois, and founded both a sorority and a national association for black beauticians. Joyner was friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, and helped found the National Council of Negro Women. She was an advisor to the Democratic National Committee in the 1940s, and advised several New Deal agencies trying to reach out to black women. Joyner was highly visible in the Chicago black community, as head of the Chicago Defender Charity network, and fundraiser for various schools. In 1987 the Smithsonian Institution in Washington opened an exhibit featuring Joyner's permanent wave machine and a replica of her original salon.
Permanent wave design
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.
- Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture (2010) pp 435-38.
- "Invention at Play: Marjorie Joyner". Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Retrieved 2006-07-24.