In celebrating Women’s History Month, it is important that we shed light on Black women who have changed our lives with one invention at a time. Just take a look around you. There are products in your household and outside your household that you depend on daily that were invented by a Black woman.
And while school history books may have neglected to inform you just how magical Black women are, stay tuned as we share seven inventions that came from the genius minds of Black women. From hairbrushes to central heating, Black women are responsible for making certain aspects of our lives better.
So before you take these simple pleasures for granted, read below and thank the Black woman inventors today.
Feel safe at home? You have a Black woman to thank for that. Marie Van Brittan Brown invented what is now home security. She and her husband Albert Brown were able to get a patent in 1969 for their original design which included a camera, peepholes, a two-way mic, and an alarm. A modern version of the security system can be likened to the Ring camera.
2.Improved Menstrual Pad
While menstrual pads had already been around, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s tweak to the feminine product made it revolutionary. In 1954, Mary invented an adjustable belt to the pad and a moisture-proof pocket. And while the new and improved sanitary napkin was widely used, it was the game-changing adhesive strip added to the bottom of the pad to attach it to the underwear that is still being used today.
In 1898, Lyda D. Newman was the first person to get a patent for the hairbrush after she made changes to the original design by featuring synthetic bristles. Lyda’s design also had spaces between rows that made it easier to clean and it even featured a button on the back that could be opened for cleaning. The original hairbrushes were made of animal hair and so Lyda’s patented brush made them less expensive and easier to manufacture.
In a world of texting and social media, GIFs have become a popular way to communicate with one another. Computer scientist Lisa Gelobter must have had the foresight into today’s world as she is responsible for the animation behind GIFs. Another fun fact about Lisa is that she created the video technology behind the popular streaming network Hulu.
Next time you get up to turn your heater on in your home, thank Alice H. Parker. This inventor created central heating by using a natural gas-fueled furnace in 1919, a time when homes depended on firewood and coals that were concentrated to certain parts in the home.
In April 1892, Sarah Boone changed the way we iron after she patented an improved design to the ironing board. The ironing board was originally created by McCoy, but Sarah’s improvement made it easier to iron women’s clothing such as dresses with its narrow and curved design.
7.The Fruit Press
Juicing is a popular way to get the health benefits we need to nourish our bodies, but did you know that the first fruit press was made by a Black woman? In April 1916, Madeline Turner received a patent after creating the first machine to extract juice from some of our favorite fruits. So, it’s safe to say, she was also the first to have the juice.
Featured image by Getty Images
- Black Women Mixologists You Should Know - xoNecole: Women's ... ›
- 5 Black Women Revolutionizing How We Manage Our Periods ... ›
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image courtesy
The Black and Brown wellness and fitness baddies had 2023 in a chokehold, and they're still going strong. Many are creating apps, advocating for body positivity, and showing us that we can redefine narrow, sometimes-misinformed mantras of what "wellness" really means, especially as women of color. And there's indeed money to be made, with professionals---who ensure you're at your healthiest---tapping into the $5.6 trillion industry with boldness and innovation.
That being said (or read), let's get into a few great career options---based on 2024 wellness trends forecast by experts---for women who are passionate about empowering and motivating others to achieve their health goals, and who want to find ways to leverage their skills in those industries to make a good living:
1. Doula/Childbirth Consultant
According to a recent McKinsey report, women are investing more in pregnancy- and mother-related products and services, especially in the realm of women-focused healthcare and facilities. With the underrepresentation of Black and Brown women in the space, this is the perfect opportunity to not only be a disruptor but to expand on the world of the esteemed foremothers of doula and childbirth work.
Per a recent report, women are investing more in pregnancy.
2. Somnologist/Sleep Coach
The report also indicates that sleep is a key area in terms of wellness trends, with more women looking to increase quantity and quality, with 37 percent of U.S. consumers expressing "a desire for additional sleep and mindfulness products and services." If this is your thing, an intriguing option is becoming a professional who studies and/or treats sleeping disorders or someone who can help women find strategies and methods to help them build healthy sleeping habits or pinpoint barriers to that.
You can earn more than $200,000 per year as a somnologist, and the job requires earning a medical and/or doctoral degree as well as licensing. Sleep coaches can earn six-figure annual salaries as well, but the job doesn't necessarily require a college degree. You'll need training, of course, and you won't have the same duties of a doctor (i.e., diagnosing disorders or prescribing medicines).
3. Holistic Healthcare Practitioner
These professionals address the physical, mental, and even spiritual when considering treatments and remedies when it comes to healthcare. For some, there's an implementation and consideration of science and non-traditional medicine, while others skew more toward natural ways of constructing plans for healing. Certifications and training make for a more credible position in the industry, and you can earn more than $126,000 per year in this role.
If you're fascinated by the connection between our guts and our overall health, this is another realm you can explore under this umbrella, as more than 50 percent of people in the U.S., U.K., and China are prioritizing gut health, according to this report. The average base yearly salary for a gastroenterologist is more than $300,000 in top markets; naturopathic physicians can make more than $100,000 yearly, and as a credentialed physician or nurse, you can specialize in gut health with a natural approach.
Intuitive healing and spiritual wellness are also becoming more of a priority for women, according to this expert, and tools like immersive ASMR are being used for optimal mental wellness, so if you're into ways of combining the nontraditional with traditional when in a healing practice, this role might be perfect for you.
Kickboxing is just one of the combat sports "expected to go more mainstream" in 2024.
4. Combat Fitness Instructor
Hear me out: We need more Black and Brown women in fields like this, especially since, per the experts, combat sports are "expected to go more mainstream" this year. We're talking about the cardio and other health-related benefits that come from doing activities like jiu-jitsu, karate, kickboxing, to name a few. And if you've ever done a Tae Bo class, whether in-person or via YouTube (a trademarked fitness system created and made famous by Billy Blanks), you've witnessed firsthand what a mix of martial arts and aerobics can do.
You can earn upwards of $76,000 depending on the market and your level of experience, or you can charge by the hour as a freelance instructor. You can also build up your own online platform, create courses for corporations or small businesses, or get hired on women's retreats.
5. Wellness Retreat Entrepreneur
Speaking of retreats, they're all the rage nowadays, and you can't really open your TikTok or Instagram app without seeing an ad for one targeting women. (I mean, just consider how women are willing to pay more than $15,000 for a retreat to help them address the effects of perimenopause and menopause.) And with "slow travel" being a top trend forecast by experts, travelers are apparently craving experiences for grounding, coping with burnout and anxiety, or other mental health restoration that contributes to women's wellness efforts. So, getting into organizing and/or hosting wellness retreats might be your best career move this year.
There are so many facets one could get into with this, so the money you can make doing this can vary. Entrepreneurs and hosts who lead retreats can sure see five- and six-figure revenues for sure, and depending on the scale of the retreat, whether sponsors are involved, and how vast participation is, it can increase to millions.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Courtney Hale/Getty Images