My mother let her make the extra money – but she had strict rules - nobody at the house after dark and nobody could sit between her legs. The customer had to sit in the chair, with my sister standing behind it, she could not move to the front of the chair, you had to maneuver however so she could do what she did.
In between attending nursing classes and working part-time, she made decent extra cash braiding hair. There are thousands of young ladies, many of them single mothers in the inner city supplementing their income braiding hair.
When Oumou Wague immigrated to the United States 18 years ago, she braided hair -- a skill that virtually all women in her native Senegal learn as girls -- to help her family. Today, braiding still is her primary source of income. But like many hair braiders in Illinois, she does not have a cosmetology license -- something required by state law since 1985.
The law requires braiders to complete 1,500 hours of cosmetology school -- which can cost upward of $10,000 -- despite the fact that hair braiding-specific courses are not offered at any of the approximately 60 schools that are part of the Illinois Association of Cosmetology Schools. There are about 100 cosmetology schools in Illinois and some of them offer braiding basics, but it is not part of their core curriculum, the association said.
Carol Frederick, executive director of the Illinois Association of Cosmetology Schools, agrees that consumer protection should be the main focus. She said any changes in the law should ensure that hair braiders are trained in sanitation, such as keeping combs and pins clean, and health issues, such as identifying scalp diseases and dealing with blood-borne pathogens.
While the legislature is on summer break, hair braiders are waiting and hoping that the law will be changed soon.