Black History Month Spotlight: The Innovative Spirit of Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

Black History Month Spotlight: The Innovative Spirit of Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

At HBCU Leggings, we're always celebrating Black history, but this month, we’re paying homage to some of the lesser known, and possibly overlooked contributions of our ancestors. Mary Beatrice Kenner, an unsung hero of innovation, is a shining example of how the contributions of Black people continue to benefit us today. Her groundbreaking invention revolutionized feminine hygiene for women around the globe. Join us in this Black History Spotlight as we explore Kenner's life, legacy, and the modern brands that continue to carry the torch of her groundbreaking work. 

The Life and Legacy of Mary Beatrice Kenner

Do you know who holds the record for the most U.S. patents awarded to a Black woman?
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, born on May 17, 1912, in Monroe, North Carolina, was destined for innovation from a young age. Raised in a family of inventors, including her father, Sidney Nathaniel Davidson, Mary showed early promise, attempting her first invention at the age of six. She applied to and was accepted to Howard University, but despite her passion for learning, financial constraints led her to drop out after just a year and a half.

Undeterred by setbacks, Kenner pursued various odd jobs before becoming a federal employee in 1941. However, her true calling lay in invention, and she dedicated her spare time to creating solutions to everyday problems.

In 1957, Kenner patented her most famous invention, the sanitary belt, designed to address the issue of menstrual blood leakage. Despite initial challenges and discrimination, her innovative design provided women with a practical solution for menstrual hygiene.

Throughout her life, Kenner continued to innovate, patenting creations like a toilet paper holder and a back washer. Even after receiving little formal recognition, her contributions to everyday life have left a lasting mark in the feminine hygiene and self care industries. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner's legacy serves as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of African American inventors, inspiring future generations to pursue their passions and make a difference.

Contemporary Brands Carrying the Torch

In the spirit of Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner's legacy, we present you with several contemporary innovators that have emerged, committed to promoting women's health, empowerment, and self care. During Black History Month and beyond, these brands honor Kenner's pioneering spirit by offering innovative and inclusive products that promote self care.

Honey Pot Co.

Honey Pot Co. was founded by Beatrice Dixon, an entrepreneur with a vision to create natural and effective feminine care products. Inspired by her own experiences and the desire to address common issues faced by women, Dixon set out to develop a range of products that prioritize natural ingredients and promote women's health.

The company gained widespread attention after being featured in a 2016 Target commercial, which sparked both praise and controversy due to Dixon's statement about wanting to empower women of color. Despite the backlash, Honey Pot Co continued to thrive, gaining recognition for its commitment to using plant-based ingredients and supporting women's health initiatives.

Today, Honey Pot Co offers a variety of feminine care products, including organic cotton tampons, pads, wipes, and washes, all crafted with natural ingredients and free from harsh chemicals. With a mission to empower women to take control of their health and wellness, Honey Pot Co remains dedicated to providing innovative solutions for women everywhere.

Zen in a Jar

Zen in a Jar, founded by Dr. Nikki Brooks Seevers, is a testament to the power of heritage, resilience, and self-discovery, especially as we commemorate Black History Month. Inspired by the fond memories of her grandmothers, Evelyn and Verneda, and the unwavering support of her mother, Nikki embarked on a journey of self-expression and entrepreneurship, fueled by a deep love for self-care and gifting.

With a strong desire to share the wisdom of her ancestors, Nikki embarked on a journey to create a brand that celebrates the transformative power of self-care and natural beauty. Zen in a Jar's product line includes a diverse range of skincare essentials, meticulously crafted with organic, plant-based ingredients to nourish the skin and enhance natural radiance. 

What sets Zen in a Jar apart is its commitment to sustainability and mindfulness, reflected in its eco-friendly packaging and practices. Through her brand, Nikki aims to provide moments of relaxation and tranquility, empowering individuals to prioritize self-care and embrace their inner beauty. With a growing community of loyal customers, Zen in a Jar continues to redefine holistic skincare while fostering a sense of peace and balance in the lives of many.

Octavia Morgan Los Angeles

As we acknowledge  pioneers of innovation, we turn our spotlight to Octavia Morgan Los Angeles, a clean fine fragrance and beauty company that embodies the essence of heritage, resilience, and self-discovery. Founded by Octavia Morgan, an African American woman with a passion for fragrance and a commitment to clean beauty, this brand represents a journey of empowerment and creativity.

Octavia's inspiration for her brand stemmed from her personal experience with fragrance sensitivities to mass-produced perfumes. Armed with a Bachelor's Degree in Science and a determination to create products that prioritize health and wellness, Octavia embarked on a mission to develop clean, non-toxic, paraben, and phthalate-free fragrances and beauty products. Her creations, including parfums, body products, candles, and home fragrances, are meticulously crafted with natural ingredients, designed to elevate the senses and incorporate nature into everyday life.

As an African American woman, small business owner, creative director, and perfumer, Octavia faced her fair share of challenges, from securing resources and financing to competing in a crowded marketplace. However, her unwavering determination, coupled with the support of her community and growing customer base, has propelled Octavia Morgan Los Angeles to success. Recently, Octavia achieved a significant milestone by completing the 2023 ULTA Beauty Muse Accelerator Cohort, further solidifying her brand's potential for growth.

Octavia Morgan Los Angeles exemplifies the resilience and ingenuity of Black entrepreneurs, offering a testament to the possibilities that exist when passion, creativity, and determination intersect. As we celebrate Black History Month, we honor Octavia Morgan's contributions to the beauty industry and her commitment to creating products that empower individuals to embrace their natural beauty while fostering a deeper connection to the world around them.


As we reflect on the achievements of Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner and her contemporaries, we are reminded of the power of resilience, determination, and ingenuity in overcoming obstacles and effecting positive change.

From Honey Pot Co.'s commitment to natural feminine care products to Zen in a Jar's dedication to holistic skincare and Octavia Morgan Los Angeles' innovative approach to clean fragrances, each brand embodies the spirit of empowerment and self-discovery.  Through their stories, we find inspiration to pursue our own dreams and aspirations, knowing that the legacy of those who came before us continues to guide and inspire us.

Join us at HBCU Leggings in celebrating Black History Month by honoring the past, embracing the present, and shaping the future, and don’t forget our exclusive BHM discount, BETONBLACK24, which offers you 10% off on our entire store from February 1st to February 29th.Together, let us pay tribute to the visionaries who have paved the way for generations to come, reminding us of the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

Love and Leggings,


Bibi Mama is a first generation Beninese-American actress born and raised in Mansfield, CT. Growing up she watched her father, an English professor and author, continue the Yoruba oral tradition through storytelling, which inspired her. She earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and recently finished her MFA at the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA Graduate Acting Program.
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