Marjorie Joyner

Marjorie Stewart Joyner had a strong message that she carried throughout her life. Be proud of who you are and treat yourself as if you care. This strong belief in pride led her to being an avid supporter of young men and women throughout her life. It also led her to an invention to help the women who came to see her feel better about themselves.

Born in 1896 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Marjorie did not stay long in the state. She moved early in her life to Chicago where in her teens she studied cosmetology. She quickly became associated with the famous beauty expert Madam C.J. Walker who had been made famous by Josephine Baker’s adoption of her products. 

Marjorie went on to become an inventor and an educator in African American beauty culture. While a cosmetologist, she was frustrated that the day after having her hair done most women looked like “an accident going someplace to happen.” In response she invented a permanent wave machine that would allow a hairdo to stay set for days, if not more. According to Anne MacDonald, “This was a dome shaped device that applied electrical current to pressed and clamped one-inch sections of hair, creating a hairdo that would last a considerable time.” In 1926 she became the first African American woman to receive a patent for her invention and opened the door for many others to follow.

Marjorie Joyner never received any money for her invention but she did move fast in the world of beauty. She became the Director of C.J. Walker’s nationwide chain of beauty schools. She also co-founded, with Mary Bethune Mcleod, the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association in 1945.

She was always committed to helping people. During the depression she worked for several programs in the New Deal to find housing and work for young African Americans. She consistently worked to instill pride in the young people she worked with. In pursuit of this goal she worked for years to raise money for black colleges and chaired the Bud Billiken Parade, the largest African American parade in the United States, for over fifty years.