All Rachael Gorsuch wanted was to braid her friends’ and neighbors’ hair and make some money from her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But under state law, braiding hair without a license was illegal and after someone reported Gorsuch to the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission, she faced potential criminal penalties.
Her campaign to make it legal to braid hair at home has since made national headlines. Until recently, obtaining a license to braid hair required 2,100 hours of official training in South Dakota, when the state had some of the strictest cosmetology rules in the nation. But under a new policy slated to go into effect this fall, it will now be legal for hair stylists to work from home without a license. The Hill highlighted Gorsuch’s fight Monday in an article titled, “Booze, braids and more: Odd state laws take effect.”
Gorsuch, who is white, said she has been working on black women’s hair since she was 14 years old. She claims she is one of a few people in the state who know how to braid black hair, but never received her license. There are roughly 11,000 black people in all of South Dakota, or about 2 percent of the state’s population, according to Census data.
“If you call any random salon, they’re going to tell you that they don’t do it,” Gorsuch told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader in February. “You’re not even teaching it in the schools, yet you’re making people get a license?”
Supporters in the community backed Gorsuch’s effort to make her practice legal and Governor Dennis Daugaard sided with the campaign. “We rallied because it’s important to my family and it’s important for people all across the state,” Ryan Howlett told The Argus Leader. “My daughter needs protective styling for her hair to be as beautiful as it can be, and it’s a service that’s needed.”
State Representative Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford, said he voted for the bill because he backs small government. “I’m opposed to unnecessary regulation, and I think this is it,” Steinhauer said.