Wednesday Women’s Work – Hazel Webb Dunn, Hairdresser

Hazel Lenora Mae Webb Dunn was the wife of my great great grandmother Cassie Dunn’s little brother, Emmanuel (also called Manuel). She was born in 1909 and grew up in High Bluff, Manitoba. In her late teens, she went to Winnipeg to become a hairdresser.

The 1920s must have been an exciting time to be getting into hairdressing, because of the bob. When bobbed hair first became popular, there was nowhere for women to get their hair cut. The salons at the time provided services like marcel waves and styling, but since women generally didn’t cut their hair there was no call for someone to do it. Then the bob hit the scene and women showed up in droves to barber shops. At first the men didn’t know what to make of it. Some were uncomfortable sharing a masculine domain with girls. As these things usually go, money won out and a lot of barbers were happy to cut hair for women. Then the salons realized they’d like to make a buck, and trained women to cut hair, too.

There was new technology, too. Hairstylists were competing to create a method of permanently curling hair.

Eugene Suter curling a woman's hair

(Photo of Eugene Suter, using a heated curler machine designed by Isidoro Calvete. Courtesy of Isidoro’s son, Louis, from the wikipedia article on perms.)

This is an early 1920s permanent wave machine, designed by Isidoro Calvete. I can’t imagine the patience it would have taken to be the hairstylist winding the hair on the curlers while making sure that each cord stayed untangled, or to be the woman sitting there with all of this equipment on her head, worrying about urban legends that a friend of a cousin got electrocuted by one.

In 1929, Hazel moved to Manitou, where she opened her own business. I wonder if it was a hair salon and if it was, how many permanent wave machines she had to set up.

Hazel passed away on July 24, 2005. Her obituary can be read here, on the Passages Manitoba site.

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  1. Trackback: Follow Friday: This Week’s Favorite Finds » Climbing My Family Tree

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