WOMEN are behind a large number of inventions than they are generally given credit for. In fact, the inventive spirit in women can be traced back hundreds of years. The first patent granted to a woman was in 1637. Here’s a sampling of women inventors and their inventions:
1) Mary Anderson – Windshield Wiper
Mary Anderson may be a name many of us have never heard before but all those who drive vehicles use her invention. 1903 was the year that brought about a change in how people travelled in frosty weather. That year, Anderson a native of Birmingham, Alabama, was visiting New York City via a trolley car. Her intention of catching a glimpse of the Big Apple turned into disappointment when the snowy weather became a nuisance. She not only had a hard time seeing through the windscreen that was heavily covered with snow but noticed that drivers were also having difficulty seeing through the sleet and snow. They would have to reach through the window to wipe the snow and sleet off the windshield by hand. She immediately put her thinking cap on. After getting her formula right, Anderson filed for a patent for the first windshield wipers in 1903.
2) Stephanie Kwolek – Kevlar
Stephanie Kwolek saved an untold number of lives. A modern-day alchemist, she led the development of a synthetic material called Kevlar which is five times stronger that the same weight of steel. Many police officers owe their lives to her as Kevlar is a material used in bullet proof vests. The eureka moment came while Kwolek was working on specialty fibers at a DuPont laboratory in Wilminton. She is the only female employee of DuPont to be awarded the company’s Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement. She was recognised as a “persistent experimentalist and a role model.”
3) Margaret Knight – Square Bottom Paper Bag
When paper bags were first introduced to shoppers, they weren’t all that useful for carrying things. Shaped like an envelope, its use was limited. However, we have Margaret Knight to thank for the evolution of paper bags. Knight realized that paper bags should have a square bottom; when weight was distributed across the base in this way, more things could be carried in the bag. In 1870, she created a widen machine that cut, folded and glued the square bottoms to paper bags. She was granted the patent for the device in 1871. It’s interesting to note that Knight was awarded more than 20 patents.
4) Bette Nesmith Graham – Liquid Paper
In the 1950s the electric typewrite had just be introduced. Despite the convenience, secretaries often found themselves retyping entire pages because of one small mistakes. Bette Nesmith Graham was one of them and being a bad typist did not make the situation any better. An idea sparked when she watched workers painting a holiday display on a bank’s window. She noticed that when they made mistakes, they simply added another layer of paint to cover the mistake. She decided to put the idea to test.
Using her kitchen blender, Graham mixed a water-based tempera paint with dye that matched her company’s stationary. Unfortunately, Graham was fired from her job for spending so much time distributing what she called “Mistake Out”. Having more time on her hands, she tweaked her mixture, renamed the product Liquid Paper and received a patent in 1958.
5) Josephine Cochrane – Dishwasher
The real impetus for the invention of dishwasher was driven by the frustration over Josephine Cochrane’s servants breaking her heirloom china after fancy dinners. Her machine relied upon strong water pressure aimed at a wire rack of dishes, and she received a patent for the device in 1886.
Like any modern inventors today, she faced the same challenges back then. She claimed that inventing the machine was easier than promoting it. Undaunted, Cochrane sought appointments with large hotels and restaurants. Today, dishwashing machines are common in many homes as more women enter the workplace.
As a final note, wishing all readers a Happy International Women’s Day 🙂
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