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Famous Women in History - Famous Female Inventors

Updated on August 27, 2012

Women Inventers who became Famous

There are many inventions made by women from yesteryear that made life easier for people. However, because of the stigmatism and gender inequality, very few women ever received credit for their inventions.

We all know Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci and Henry Ford had minds that were inquisitive, imaginative and far beyond their years. What of the other side of the fence? Are there women inventors and what did they accomplish?

Ruth Wakefield, Ruth Handler, Marie Curie, Sybilla Masters, Josephine Corhan all made our lives easier. These women and many others invented items that are invaluable to us today.

Women have always been known to be curious and creative. These ideas were shaped by the times they lived in or for the need of convenience. With managing the housework that never ends, money, laundry, ironing and on top of that cooking supper and cleaning the dishes. Also they had the added responsibly of caring and nursing the children. To save time was paramount in their busy lives.

Indeed some of these inventions have lightened women's work loads. Now, due to them and their ideas we can enjoy talking more to people, having more time for ourselves and spending qualtiy time with the ones we love.


This article is dedicated to those women of yesteryear, who sacrificed everything to further the common good, even when it resulted in their personal or emotional suffering.

Marie Curie

What did she discover:

  • She's famous for her work in radioactivity
  • She received not only one but two Noble Prizes.
  • Maria was the 1st female professor at University of Paris

Her passions were math, physics and chemistry. These were strange subjects for a woman to be interested in. After all, a woman's natural inclination was supposed to be toward nurturing, loving and softness, not learning about the higher sciences.

She was born in Poland and moved to France when she was twenty-four, to gain higher learning for her passions. She loved her homeland but was loyal to France.

Yet her achievements stand alone in her research. She created the term 'theory of radioactivity', a phrase she thought up. During her research she discovered how to isolate the radioactive isotopes. She discovered two new elements that no one knew about, she named them polonium and radium.

When she moved to France with her sister she went to Sorbonne. In 1894 she met Pierre Curie, He was an instructor in the university.

They soon discovered they had many things in common. They were married in July, 1895. They became inseparable. They continued to work on their passions. They loved to take long bike rides and travel. These activities brought the couple closer together.

They devoted years of their lives to their research. They discovered new elements and did research papers.

One rainy day, Pierre was walking down a Parisian street and as he began to cross, a carriage smashed into him and the horses ran over him, killing him quickly.

His death was a dismal time in her life. She'd lost her soul mate and she focused on her research.

She continued her work and emerged from her husband's shadow.

These are the awards and metals she received.

  • Noble Prize in Physics - 1903
  • Davy Medal - 1903
  • Matteucci Medal - 1904
  • Elliot Medal - 1909
  • Noble Peace Prize - 1911

Although she discovered radiation, she didn't understand the deadly effects radiation. No one did.

She often carried tubes of radioactive isotopes. Her notes and cookbooks are covered in radiation. She admired the blue-green glow that they emitted, in the dark, without realizing that it was slowly killing her.

Much of her research was conducted without safety measures this expousing her to the deadly effects of radiation poisoning.

She died of aplastic anemia on July 4th, 1934.

She was a trailblazer in a time when women were hindered form using their minds and intuitions. Instead of begin encouraged to be who they wanted to be, to follow their passions they were told they had only one duty.

That was to get married and have children. Thanks to women like her women now have more freedom to choose what they want in life.

Ruth Handler

What She Invented:

  • The Barbie Doll - 1959

Her family left Poland to come to America. After all, it was the place of dreams. Life wasn't easy being a Polish Jew in a new land. She adapted to her new homeland.

She grew up, married her sweet heart, Elliot Handler. Her husband and his partner created wooden frames. Their company was called "Mattel". They found out making toys was a better product and shifted production. The big seller was called "Uka-a-doodle" a ukulele.

Ruth noticed her preteen daughter, Barbra playing with her cut out baby dolls giving them adults names. Then the inspiration struck. Why not make a plastic adult doll, that had an adult body that girls could play with?

That night at dinner she told her husband of the idea. He laughed at the idea and told her that it wasnt a good idea. Who ever heard of such a thing?

When they took a trip to Europe, in Germany she saw the Bild Lilli doll. She didn't know that it was an adult gag gift, rather than a children's toy, but upon returning home she reworked the design.

Barbie appeared in the New York Toy Fair, in March 9th, 1959. From that moment on Barbie sky rocketed into the strata sphere. Girls loved the doll. They wanted more.

Ruth Graves Wakefield

What She invented:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies - 1930s

There is one thing that women crave. Chocolate! There is nothing like it in all the world. Mmm...

She was the inventor of Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. Leave it to a woman to invent such a delicious dessert that would satisfy kids and women everywhere.

In 1930 Ruth and her husband bought a little "toll house" lodge that was a traveler's rest stop. They would spend the night there and would want some home-cooking before they left.

Ruth became famous for her desserts that she would bake fresh from the oven. Many people enjoyed her cooking and through word of mouth their business grew. The two became partners. John F. Kennedy even stopped by once for a taste.

Sybilla Masters

What she invented:

  • Corn Grinding Machine - 1715

Before sunup to well after sundown a woman kept busy. Women back then didn't have a washer and dryer so they lugged all the clothes to the creeks and pounded the clothes with rocks and scrubbed them with soap. They cooked and cleaned and took care of the children. It was a never ending task.

Another task that all the women did was shelling corn. A woman would take a plank of wood, put the corn on it, scraping away the kernels with a spade. Also they had to make sure it was clean. It was a tedious task that took forever, taking away time from other duties.

Sybilla Masters came up with an idea that not only would scrape away the kernels of corn, but grind it, make it into oil and other necessary items. Though her responsibilities weren't lessened, it was just one less thing she had to worry about.

Due the the mind-set of the time, her husband obtained the patent from King George because women weren't allowed to hold patents, they weren't considered intelligent enough. After all it said in the Bible a woman was supposed to be subservient to her husband and consult him in all things.

Even though it made life somewhat easier for them, most women continued to do it the old fashioned way.

Miriam Benjamin

What she invented:

  • Gong and Signal Chair

Hotels were busy places in the 1800's and sometimes customers were frustrated at not being helped by the staff in a timely fashion.

Miriam, a school teacher, noticed the frustration of the clients and knew that this was bad for business. She set out to make a device that was a buzzer built into the chair where the customer sat. All they had to do was press the buzzer to get the attention of the waiter.

She was only the second African American to ever attain a patent up to that point.

Josephine Corchan

What She Invented :

  • The Dishwasher

At the end of a well-cooked meal, most of the family melted into the woodwork, knowing what time it was. Dishwashing time. Things haven't changed much, have they? No one wanted to do them back then either, not even the woman who cooked the supper.

Josephine Cochan, like many women, must have grown tired of the hassle of clearing off the table, getting the water hot and then doing the messy dishes.

So she created a hand-turned wooden box which splashed hot water on the dishes. It was a cranky and temperamental device, but it worked, saving hours of manual labor.

Expecting it to sell big she went to the World's Fair in 1893 to promote it, but alas, only big hotels and restaurants were interested in her device.

It wasn't until the 1950's that her vision caught the public's attention. Now, women can't live without them.

Mary Anderson

What She Invented:

  • Windshield wiper

Rain splatters down upon your wind shield and within seconds the driver can't see the road. With a pull of a lever the windshield wiper swipes the water away, making things visible again.

We take this device for granted.

But before this device came along, drivers had to do this task manually as they drove along. Talk about a road hazard!

Mary Anderson noticed this and knew there had to be a better way. In 1903 she received her patent and by 1916 it became standard in new cars.

How did we ever live without it?

Then again, how did we ever live without cars?

Choose your invention

OK, women, which invention could you NOT live without?

See results


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    • jeanie.stecher profile image

      jeanie.stecher 7 years ago from Seattle

      well, this is the first time which I have read an article containing these ideas. In fact I was startled with an idea that only men has made their names in the history books but also women. If a man can do one, why can't a woman do. =)