Every day, we go through life’s daily tasks without even thinking. Some of the things we do could really be done in our sleep. Why? Because in this day and age, we have access to so many tools that make life easier. Some of these tools, you’d be surprised to know, would not have come to fruition without the hard work, intelligence, innovation and even inventions of Black women. And no, I’m not talking about Madame C. J. Walker. As much as we love her for creating something that can straighten out the nappiest of naps (I’m natural and happy to be nappy so chill out), Black women have contributed far more than the perm to today’s society. Let’s take a trip into the past and visit some of the baddest Sistas to ever grace the planet with their presence.
Did you know that the original ironing board was designed in a way that made ironing more difficult than it is today? The original design was created in 1858 and was basically a wooden block. Sounds like something a man created, right? Well, thank God for Sarah Boone. In 1892, she tweaked the ironing board to where it featured a more narrow and curved design. This made it easier to iron garments, specifically women’s clothing. Boone’s design was ultimately transformed into the ironing board that we all know, love and use today. Thanks you Ms. Boone!
As I was working on this blog, I sent two different phone calls to my voicemail. Why? Because I could see who I was calling, and neither of the numbers were saved in my phone nor did they look familiar to me. Well, guess what. If it weren’t for the amazing Shirley Ann Jackson, we wouldn’t be able to ignore those unwanted or unknown callers. Jackson was an inventor and physicist and the first Black woman to ever earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the 1970s, Jackson worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories. While there, she led research to develop caller ID and call waiting functions. So the next time your phone rings and you decide to press decline, show our girl some love and whisper a little “Thank you Shirley!”
One of the first things my husband and I got when we bought our house was a security system. I immediately felt safer, and it’s all thanks to Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband Albert Brown. This amazing Black couple tag teamed and invented the home security system in 1966. That same year, the applied for a patent, and it was granted in 1969. Thank you Mrs. Brown (and Mr. Brown) for bringing safety and security to our homes.
Not much is known about Lyda D. Newman’s life, but according to official census records, she was born in Ohio around 1885. In 1898, Newman applied for a patent for a new style of hair brush. Do the math. She was only about 13 years old and making boss moves. You may think “A brush? What’s the big deal?” Let me tell you about this brush. Have you ever seen one of those old movies where there’s a lady brushing her hair for the entire five minute long scene? Well, brushes weren’t as user friendly back then, and combing hair was a long and difficult process.
Newman’s new and improved hair brush was revolutionary. Not only did Newman introduce the evenly spaced rows of bristles with her brush, but it also had open slots so that debris could fall into a removable compartment. The artificial bristles that Newman used back then were similar to the ones used today. Her amazing work didn’t end at the hair brush. She went on to become a women’s rights activist and was an organizer for the African-American branch of the Women’s Suffrage Party. Great work Ms. Newman!
Have you ever been to a 3D movie? Well, you can thank Valerie Thomas for that. I know this isn’t something that we use on a daily basis, but it’s definitely a pretty cool luxury for us mommies who have kids who enjoy a good 3D movie. Thomas was a physicist, inventor, and NASA data analyst. She invented the technology which went on to become the premise for more advanced TV screens and modern 3D technology. In the late 70s, Thomas stumbled upon some valuable information when she realized that concave mirrors could create the illusions of 3D objects. She then began playing around with how to visually transmit the 3-dimensional illusion. In 1980, she received a patent for her illusion transmitter. Come THROUGH Ms. Thomas!
Now this woman right here was absolutely amazing. She was an avid, self-taught inventor who got started at the age of six when she was determined to created a self-oiling door hinge (inspired by a squeaky door in her house). Kenner was always looking to create something that could solve everyday problems. She would draw up models and build them in her spare time. Her God-given skills led her to create a portable ash try, a back washer, and even a sponge tip to combat leaky umbrellas.
Her first patented invention was a belt for sanitary napkins. You see, back then women used cloth pads and rags during their menstrual cycle. There was no such thing as a pad with adhesive to ensure it stayed in place. So Kenner created an adjustable belt with a built-in, waterproof napkin pocket to help prevent leaks. With no degree or professional training, she filed five patents. This is more than any other African-American woman in history. Amongst Kenner’s many inventions and brilliant ideas was something that we all use daily: the toilet tissue holder! This invention is so appropriate because my girl Mary was the sh…….bee’s knees. LOL! Get it Mary!
These amazing women represent just a small portion of the Black Girl Magic that has taken place throughout history. My heart was filled with pride as I wrote this blog and researched such amazing women. To know that these women have paved the way for me to impact this world in significant ways brought tears to my eyes. Black women have been so devalued and even demonized in this country in so many ways, and I can not help but believe that this attack is intentional and strategic. If they can get inside of our heads and affect the way we think and feel about ourselves, then, they can keep us from tapping into our full potential. Well the buck stops with me…
…and you. If you’ve allowed the toxic narrative regarding black women in this country to negatively affect how you view yourself and other black women in your world, stop. Stop believing the lies. You’re not aggressive, you’re assertive. You are not loud, you’re expressive. You’re not mean, you’re a self-advocate. You are not disrespectful, you give respect to those who have earned it. And you are NOT inferior to any other human being on this planet. You’re magical! You. Are. Magic. Never forget that.
With lots of Black Girl Magic,