Innovating a Legacy
Sarah E. Goode(1862?, d. 1905)Sarah Goode is regarded as the first African American woman to obtain a patent. Her invention, a folding cabinet bed, eventually led to the invention of the “Murphy Bed.”
Sarah E. Goode
After the Civil War, Goode gained freedom from slavery and moved to Chicago. Marrying a carpenter at age 15, she managed the carpentry shop. Hearing complaints from many of her patrons who lived in small apartments about their desperate need to maximize living space, Goode began working on a design to utilize that space more effectively. She invented a bed that folded up into a cabinet so that it took up less space and could also be used as a functional desk. There is little information about the rest of Goode’s life. Her name is often attached to photos of other women of color. One particular image is attributed to both Goode and another inventor from the turn of the century, Sarah Boone. This image is actually Edmonia Lewis, a famous woman of color sculptor from the same time period. This misidentification of Lewis for two other women of color shows the carelessness with which some people often handle the histories of people of minority groups. After considerable research, I was not able to find a photograph of Goode. This portrait combines photos that are misidentified as Goode as well as the sole description of her light skin, specifically stating that “to the superficial observer [Goode] would appear Spanish or French.”In 1900, Goode’s idea of conserving space in small apartments influenced William L. Murphy to invent a bed which folds up into the wall.1 These convenient beds can be seen in many apartments in large cities around the world.Bibliography:1. Hall, Sharon. “Mothers of Invention: Sarah E. Goode (Cabinet Bed).” Digging History, 17 Mar. 2014, digging-history.com/2014/03/17/mothers-of-invention-sarah-e-goode-cabinet-bed/.2. Kelly, Kate. “Sarah E. Goode, (Ca.1850-1909), Inventor.” America Comes Alive, 17 June 2016, americacomesalive.com/2012/02/08/sarah-e-goode-ca-1850-1909-inventor/.3. Kirkfield, Vivian. Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor. Creston Books, 2017.4. “Landlord Surprised on Finding Tenants Colored-Attempts to Evict One and Is Arrested.” Inter Ocean, 9 Mar. 1905. www.newspapers.com/clip/4432435/the_inter_ocean_chicago_9_mar_1905/ 5. “Sarah E. Goode.” Clara Barton Museum, 6 Jan. 2016, www.clarabartonmuseum.org/sarahegoode/.
Marjorie S. Joyner(b. 1896 d. 1994)Marjorie Joyner was a beautician working for Madam Walker’s company and invented a permanent hair curling machine that improved safety and made curling hair more efficient.
Marjorie S. Joyner
At age 16, Joyner entered the A.B. Molar Beauty School in Chicago and was the first African American to graduate from that school in 1916. After getting married and opening a beauty salon, she crossed paths with Madam Walker. In 1919, Joyner joined the Walker company and, after Madam Walker’s death, became the national supervisor of Walker’s colleges. Joyner noticed that hot irons made curling hair time consuming and dangerous. Innovation struck while, according to the Smithsonian, she was cooking a pot roast with long, thin rods stuck on the inside—which could be used just like a permanent curling iron for hair. After two years she finished her invention, where she draped multiple curling rods or straightening irons over a patron’s head. Her invention was an instant hit with hair salons, allowing African American patrons the option to straighten and style their hair. Historically clothing irons were used, which could be a painful and dangerous process. Joyner continued to advocate for hair stylists and provide career possibilities for many women until she died in 1994.Joyner’s invention, above all, increased the efficiency and safety of styling hair. Her permanent-wave machine allowed multiple hair irons to be used at once and she provided safety precautions in her patent to protect the patron’s scalp. Modern hair curlers still work towards improving safety and efficiency standards, like those that contain the heat to an enclosed area away from the scalp or hands.Bibliography:1. Chamberlain, Gaius. “Marjorie Joyner.” The Black Inventor Online Museum, 26 Nov. 2012, blackinventor.com/marjorie-joyner/.2. Kelly, Kate. “Marjorie Stewart Joyner (1896-1994): Inventor of a Permanent Hair-Wave Machine.” America Comes Alive, 26 Sept. 2016, americacomesalive.com/2014/02/17/marjorie-stewart-joyner-1896-1994-inventor-permanent-hair-wave-machine/.3. “Marjorie Stewart Joyner.” National Museum of American History, 21 Sept. 2016, americanhistory.si.edu/american-enterprise-exhibition/new-perspectives/black-main-street/marjorie-stewart-joyner.
Alice H. Parker(b. 1889? d. 1962?)Alice Parker designed an early concept of the modern-day heating system that laid the groundwork for thermostat heating.
Alice H. Parker
Around the turn of the 20th century, most homes were heated by stoves or fireplaces. Parker designed and patented a more efficient system using a central gas burning furnace that could deliver heated air to rooms throughout the home. This was the first time anyone had thought to use natural gas to heat a home and this laid the groundwork for “zoned” heating. Almost nothing is known about Parker’s life, other than her residency of Morristown, NJ, the date she submitted her patent: December 23, 1919, and that she attended classes at Howard University in Washington D.C. In fact, the picture that is used online to represent her, specifically in a brochure from the New Jersey Council of Commerce (NJCC), does not depict Alice H. Parker. After considerable research, I was not able to find a recorded photograph of Parker. I still depict her using the photograph used by the NJCC, which is actually of a white woman born in 1925. This is an unfortunate reminder that throughout history, black women’s stories were not deemed important enough to record.The basic function of the thermostat can be seen in Parker’s design. The heating chambers are connected to various rooms in a house and, by valves connected to chains, the amount of heat can be controlled remotely from each room. The modern thermostat, through new wireless technology, allows for remote zoned-heating from smart phones.Bibliography: 1. “Children of William Parchment.” lyons-family.co.uk/Parchment/1831-william-parchment/children-william-parchment/albert-eliz-louise.htm. 2. Hatala, Greg. “Glimpse of History: Morristown Resident's Invention Keeps Us Warm to This Day.” NJ.com, 17 Feb. 2014, www.nj.com/morris/index.ssf/2014/02/glimpse_of_history_morristown_ residents _invention_keeps_us_warm_to_this_day.html.3. Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Alice H. Parker and the Furnace. Cherry Lake Publishing, 2018. 4. New Jersey Council of Commerce. “The Fascinating History of Alice H. Parker.” New Jersey All-Time Greatest Innovators, 17 Feb. 2014.
Mme. C. J. Walker(b.1867, d. 1919)Madam Walker transformed herself from an uneducated laundress and farm laborer to America’s first self-made female millionaire. Her hair care company, after 100 years, is still thriving today.
Mme. C. J. Walker
Born in 1867, on the same plantation her parents had been enslaved before the Civil War, Sarah Breedlove’s early life was hard and fraught with personal challenges. By the 1890s, Breedlove suffered from hair loss and scalp disease; a common ailment of the time. She worked tirelessly to create her “secret” formula that would care for the scalp and regrow hair. In 1905, she married Charles Joseph Walker and changed her name to “Madam” C. J. Walker. With this new name, she founded a company and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. Walker achieved remarkable success with her company and was able to give back to her community; fighting for anti-lynching movements on a national scale, funding African American social projects in Harlem, and forming unions and new opportunities for businesswomen across the country. The C. J. Walker Beauty Culture company, the daughter of Walker’s original business, has multiple hair care products. The company continues Walker’s legacy by creating quality products that maintain healthy, natural hair for everyone. Bibliography:1. Anthony, Cara. “A Legacy Reborn, Madam C.J. Walker Hair Products Are Back.” Indianapolis Star, IndyStar, 30 Sept. 2016, www.indystar.com/story/life/2016/09/30/100-years-later-madam-c-j-walker-hair-products-back/90316380/.2. Bundles, A’Lelia Perry. “About Madam C.J. Walker.” Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, www.mcjwbeautyculture.com/about-madam-c-j-walker-beauty-culture/#.Wt6WQojwZPb.3. Bundles, A'Lelia Perry. Madam Walker Theatre Center: an Indianapolis Treasure. Arcadia Publishing, 2012.4. Bundles, A'Lelia Perry. On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. Pocket Books, 2002.