Listen to this article here
Inventor and women’s rights advocate Lyda Newman is best known for a newly-designed hairbrush patent. Newman did not invent the hairbrush, but she did revolutionize its design to resemble the brushes in use more today.
According to Biography, little is known about the early life of Lyda D. Newman. Per official census records, she was born in Ohio around 1885. By the late 1890s, she was a New York City resident and would spend most of her years in the Big Apple.
According to Blackpast, Newman’s interest in making this newly designed hairbrush began when she would do her hair and started doing other women’s hair after moving to New York. In search to find a more efficient way to fix her clients’ hair, Newman invented the new hairbrush style. By getting it patented, she became the third black woman ever to receive a patent.
Lyda Newman’s brush was made for Black hair
Newman’s design was specifically made for African American hair and had synthetic bristles instead of animal hair. The synthetic bristles were firmer, lasted longer, and did not break as easily when used on ethnic hair. The synthetic bristles could be moved farther apart and combed through hair easier and they could be detached and reattached very quickly, which improved efficiency.
Hairdressers could now take the bristles out and have a new brush much quicker than cleaning the entire brush between clients. Additionally, there was a compartment in the brush that debris such as dandruff and dirt would fall into and could easily be removed for cleaning.
Newman’s brush was also unique because it had an air chamber that allowed airflow to the bristles, which helped the brush dry much faster. By making all of these changes to the brush and adding synthetic materials, the new hairbrush was cheaper and easier to manufacture. This made the brush accessible to many women of different backgrounds.
Newman is also remembered for her women’s rights advocacy. By 1915 Newman was highlighted in multiple newspapers for her suffrage work. She was one of the organizers of an African American branch of the Woman Suffrage Party which fought to give women the legal right to vote. Throughout the first decade of the 20th century Newman campaigned in her neighborhood in New York to raise awareness of voting.
According to Ebony, because Lyda Newman’s hairbrush straightened hair at a cost- effective price and was easy to manufacture, she is often credited for paving the way for beauty entrepreneurs like Madam C.J. Walker.