Apr 27, 2022
Aida Mayham was a proud, independent woman in a time where it was even more difficult to do so. Originally wanting to be a doctor, she focused a great deal of her life on the upstart technology of electrology, the removal of unwanted hair. In her time, she was also a journalist, an ambulance driver, and once even helped out the FBI on a case. Just press play to hear the whole story. ----
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Podcast Transcript: I’m Amanda Clark, manager of the See STL Tours program at the Missouri History Museum, and Here’s History, on eighty-eight one, KDHX. ———
Usually, studying historic local figures leads me to hidden architectural gems. But every so often, it’s the architecture that leads me to uncovering extraordinary lives otherwise lost to history. ———
Recently, an odd architectural detail on a seemingly normal home led me to a woman deserving of her own spot in St. Louis history. The detail that caught my attention was on a single family Central West End home with two entrances, one being along a major thoroughfare. Research showed the house was built in 1905 for a prominent St. Louis physician and the second entrance served his home practice. Further digging revealed that the home’s second owner, a Ms. Aida Mayham made her mark on the world through that door. When I I saw that Mayham purchased the large home as a single woman in 1918, this was a clue that told me I may be onto to someone interesting. As it turns out, Aida treated 1,000s of people from around the world in her home practice – pioneering the field of electrology as a profession. While her original dream was to be a physician, her life took a different route when she learned about the emerging science of using electricity to remove unwanted hair growth. She understood immediately that electrolysis could go beyond a purely aesthetic use, but could offer improved quality of life and mental health outcomes for women with health conditions causing excessive facial and body hair. Aida devoted over 50 years to her career – including a fight against the unsafe use of radiation for hair removal. She partnered with the FBI on an operation to shut down illegal x-ray clinics throughout St. Louis. In addition to her career, Aida served as a Red Cross ambulance driver during WWI, a correspondent for a Japanese newspaper during the 1904 World’s Fair, and she traveled extensively, including a trip to England on the Queen Mary. While she won’t be found in any history books, Aida found a way to live an exciting, meaningful, and full professional life on her own terms and I always count myself as beyond lucky when I’m able to share stories like hers. ——-
Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri History Museum and KDHX. I’m Amanda Clark and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis.