A Brief History
On May 5, 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman granted a US patent. She had invented a process for weaving straw with silk and thread. Over the years women have showed ingenuity and we would like to tell you about 10 of them. Honorary Mention: Eve, The Headache, Day 6. Not only did she invent how to get one, but how to give one as well!)
10. Mellitta Bentz, Paper Coffee Filter (1908).
Ever notice the name brand Mellitta on coffee filters in the store? Now you know where it came from.
9. Marie (Sklodowska) Curie, Radium and Polonium (1901).
Madame Curie as she is commonly known was Polish, born in Warsaw, and married an equally brilliant French physicist (Pierre). She invented the method for isolating the first known radioactive elements, radium and polonium but chose not to patent the process so the world could have it. She twice won the Nobel Prize (for Physics and for Chemistry).
8. Josephine Cochran, Dishwasher (1886).
Please take note that here at HistoryandHeadlines.com we do not laugh at jokes like, “What do you do when your dishwasher doesn’t work? A. Buy her flowers, B. Yell louder, C. Threaten to get a new one.”
7. Heddy Lamar, Spread Spectrum Radio (1941).
Not just a beautiful Hollywood actress, this genius came up with a way to make frequency hopping radio transmissions and receptions for secure radio communication.
6. Mary Anderson, Windshield Wiper Blade (1903).
She was born in 1866, before cars even existed.
5. Ruth Benerito, Permanent Press Clothing (1950’s).
She invented permanent press clothing so men could look good, too. She held 55 patents and died at age 97 in 2013.
4. Ida Rosenthal, Modern Brassiere (1925).
Not only the regular Maidenform bra, but also full figured and nursing models. She also invented the cup size system.
3. Bette Nesmith Graham, Liquid Paper (1956).
Yes, the mother of Monkee’s member, Michael Nesmith. In the days before computers and auto correct typewriters, people made a royal mess of papers by using rubber erasers. Liquid Paper (originally Mistake Out) made a huge advance in the quality of life for people who typed. Note: It could also be used as white touch up paint or to vandalize other workers stuff.
2. Charlotte Odlum Smith, Editor and Advocate.
Born in 1840, Charlotte founded multiple magazines (Inland Monthly, Working Woman, and Woman Inventor) and worked her entire life to see that women got the encouragement and recognition they deserved. She also founded a labor union of clerks called The Women’s Nation Industrial League. Smith even saw to it that the Patent Office issue a list of all women holding patents in 1883. Never one to profit from her work, she also helped many individual women and died penniless herself.
1. Mary Kies, Straw and Silk (1809).
Mary gets the top spot for being the first American woman to rise above the patriarchic constraints placed on women in the US. Good for her, and maybe some girl somewhere will grow up to invent “No Hangover Beer!”
Question for students (and subscribers): Please give us your nominations for women and their inventions (Hint: There are a lot!) you think should have been on the list in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Braun, Sandra. Incredible Women Inventors (Women’s Hall of Fame Series). Second Story Press, 2007.
Sweet, Melissa and Catherine Thimmesh. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002.
The featured image in this article is a photograph of Pierre and Marie Curie in the laboratory, demonstrating the experimental apparatus used to detect the ionsation of air, and hence the radioactivity, of samples of purified ore which enabled their discovery of radium. The copyright of this image has expired in the European Union because it was published more than 70 years ago without a public claim of authorship (anonymous or pseudonymous), and no subsequent claim of authorship was made in the 70 years following its first publication.
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