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Mother Of The Modern Brush

African American woman, Lyda D. Newman was an, entrepreneur, inventor, and an activist who has paved to the way for myself, you, women of all kind, our girls, and our hair! Lyda D. Newman patented a new and improved hairbrush in 1898 while living in New York. A hairdresser by trade, Newman designed a brush that was easy to keep clean, durable, easy to make, and provided ventilation during brushing by having recessed air chambers.

The history of the first hairbrush begins with the comb. Found by archaeologists at Paleolithic dig sites around the world, combs date back to the origins of human-made tools. Carved from bone, wood, and shells, they were initially used to groom hair and keep it free of pests, such as lice. As the comb developed, however, it became a decorative hair ornament used to display wealth and power in countries including China and Egypt.

Newman did not invent the hairbrush, but she did revolutionize its design to resemble the brushes in use today.

Newman received patent #614,335 on Nov. 15, 1898. At the age of 14, her hairbrush design included several features for efficiency and hygiene. Before this, hairbrush bristles were made of animal hair, which had difficulty going through tangled hair.

Blueprint of the modern brush designed by Lyda D. Newman.
Plans of the modern brush.

Her brush had evenly spaced rows of synthetic bristles. It had open slots to guide dirt and debris from the scalp into a compartment that could be opened at the touch of a button for cleaning out the compartment. When using this hairbrush, there was better ventilation of the hair and scalp. With this new style of a hairbrush, Newman improved both efficiency and hygiene. Newman’s brush was durable, easy to make, and easy to keep clean.

There are so many different types of brushes today thanks to Lyda. MG Studio tests and research many hair tools before saying yes. Our favorite brush has become the bamboo brush and detangling brush. Bamboo brush detangles nicely and is antibacterial. Detangling brush detangles very nicely. They are both great for all hair types.

In addition to her novel invention, she was a women's rights activist. She was one of the organizers of an African American branch of the Woman Suffrage Party, which was fighting to give women the legal right to vote. Working on behalf of her fellow African American women in New York, stories of Newman’s work for suffrage appeared in newspapers in 1915. Newman canvassed her neighborhood to raise awareness of the cause and organized suffrage meetings in her voting district. Prominent white suffragists of the Woman Suffrage Party worked with Newman's group, hoping to bring voting rights to all of New York's female residents. In 1924, seven years after women were given the right to vote, Lyda Newman was found on the 51st election drastic for New York City voter list as a registered voter.

Newman was born in Ohio around 1885. Government censuses of 1920 and 1925 confirm that Newman, then in her 30s, was living in an apartment building on Manhattan's West Side and was working as a family's hairdresser. Newman’s marital status was listed as single from 1905-1925, so it appears she never married, but Newman lived much of her adult life in New York City. Not much else is known about her private life.

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