As the rate of Black women pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors continues to rise, showing appreciation, respect, and love for the women who came before is just as vital.
Out of respect for February’s Black History Month, a time dedicated to commemorating the efforts of our ancestors and the descendants to come, below are a few underrepresented women of color whose creative enterprises have serviced generations both past and present.
Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett
Aiding in the development and production of the Moderna Vaccine when the fight against COVID-19 was most prevalent is Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who said her experience with working with another Black doctor helped her feel more confident she would find success in the field as well. “Each woman just takes her purpose and utilizes it for the greater good of everyone, and I think I try to do that as much as I can,” Corbett said during an interview with USA Today after she was recognized as a ‘National Honoree for the Women of the Year Project.’
“I think that the first thing you want to do with any career is just to figure out whether you like it or not,” Dr. Corbett said during an interview with Dr. Francis Collins for the ‘National Institutes of Health’ when asked about career advice. Promoting higher learning among young people, she encourages everyone to pursue roles in “internships, emerging programs, shadowing programs, and even scholarships.” Participating in different training initiatives can provide experience for those eager to amplify their understanding of different skills. In 2021, Dr. Corbett sustained a position within the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
Delving back in time gives a glimpse of the much-needed product aided to help women, with its trailblazer receiving a lack of acknowledgment for her invention for years. In an effort to help alleviate the stress of losing clothing due to heavy period cycles, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner designed and created the sanitary belt for women.
“If you are an inventor, owning your intellectual property is critical, and the thing that Miss Kenner understood, even at the early-to-mid 1900s, was the value of having a patent,” said Shontavia Johnson during an interview with The Karen Hunter Show. Johnson is an attorney whose expertise aligns with patents and trademarking.
Because she was born and grew up during the early nineteenth century, the absence of the “mainstream success” she deserved, stemmed from the racism and prejudice most Black people endured in the United States. Johnson also said Kenner was the owner of a total of five patents, so though her belt targeted periods, she created other products as well.
Marie Van Brittan Brown
For wanting to restore a sense of protection in her household while living in a rougher New York neighborhood, Marie Van Brittan Brown is recognized by the ‘Association for Women in Science’ for “contributing her livelihood to the invention of the first home security system” in the 1960s.
“Marie had designed a contraption that could be affixed to the front door,” said Deeper Than Read. “It would have four peepholes and through these, a motorized video camera from the inside could view visitors at different heights.” Brown and her husband were also able to incorporate microphones into the system. Over time, additional advancements have been made to make security systems more accessible through handheld devices, body cameras, and cordless mini-cameras.
Lyda D. Newman
Though many are familiar with Madam C.J. Walker’s hair care line, Lyda D. Newman is another Black businesswoman relevant within the beauty industry whose hairbrush innovation remains purchased regularly. In agreement with the idea that Black youth can find success through the expression of their ideas, Newman is said to have still been a child when reconceptualizing components of a hairbrush that would allow for easier usage when used by those with coarser hair textures.
Having trouble styling her hair with weak instruments, Newman’s alterations have certainly helped to restore confidence in the appearances of many Black women, including the clients she serviced as a hairdresser. “The hairbrush she invented is described in her patent as simple and durable in construction and being very effective when in use,” Black Excellence and Abundance said. “The bristle holder could be removed from the back and cleaned.”
Born in the 1800s, she also dedicated much of her energy to the fight to sustain voting rights.
Impact and Future
Though listed are just a few women who’ve been vital to technological innovation, their names have received significantly less acclaim than deserved. Thanks to Lyda D. Newman, Marie Van Brittan Brown, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, we can brush our hair in a vast amount of styles without stressing over sizable breakage, we can monitor our businesses in case we are faced with dangerous circumstances, the production of women’s health goods is handled with caution, and we can continue having Black doctors fighting for the protection of our health. Most of their actions have also shown support for the importance of business owners ensuring they legally protect the products they’ve created through documentation. As for the future of successful Black leaders looking to help their communities, a meritorious future is in vision.
*Sources cited from Citation Machine*
Kizzmekia S. Corbett, ph.D.. ASM.org. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://asm.org/Biographies/Kizzmekia-S-Corbett,-Ph-D
Person. (2022, April 7). Women of the year. USA Today. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/2022/03/13/melinda-french-gates-simone-biles-women-of-year/6922631001/
Mary Beatrice Davidson – inventor of the sanitary pad. DLW Storyteller. (2019, February 12). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://dlwstoryteller.com/mary-beatrice-davidson-inventor-of-the-sanitary-pad/
Lyda Newman. Lemelson. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/lyda-newman
Lyda D. Newman, inventor, and suffragist born. African American Registry. (2023, February 7). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://aaregistry.org/story/lyda-d-newman-inventor-and-suffragist-born/
The Trustees of Princeton University. (n.d.). Marie van Brittan Brown | Council on Science and Technology. Princeton University. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://cst.princeton.edu/people/marie-van-brittan-brown