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Women Inventors How Many Can You name?

Updated on May 15, 2017
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Female inventors
Female inventors

Female Inventors

Right now, off the top of your head, name 3 inventors. If you're like most people these would have all been men. This is not to say that there haven't been some fabulous inventions by men but let's look at some of the inventions that woman have brought to us. Some of them have made our lives easier, safer, or more comfortable.

Some of the women had specialist training and discovered the idea whilst working in their field, and others saw something that they thought needed improving and did it. They took a problem and found a solution.

The Inventor of Scotchguard®

The name Patsy Sherman may mean nothing to you, you may never have heard of her before, yet you will have numerous items in your home which use her invention. Scotchguard® was invented by accident, literally. She and her co-inventor were working in the lab at 3M with fluorochemical rubber and accidentally spilled some onto an assistant's tennis shoe. They tried in vain to remove the spill and realized it was forming a protective barrier. It was a stain protector.

She was one of the guest speakers at the United States Patent and Trademark Offices 200 birthday celebration and one of the things she said was,

"you can encourage and teach young people to observe, to ask questions when unexpected things happen. You can teach yourself not to ignore the unanticipated. Just think of all the great inventions that have come through serendipity, such as Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin and just noticing something no one conceived of before."

****A further note, when Patsy Sherman took her high school aptitude test, it suggested she should become a housewife.****

Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
I think this book should be shown to every young girl. It will inspire a new generation of female inventors. Then the next time they don't like something, it won't be, "This is awful" it will be "I can make that better".

Chocolate chip cookies

Irresistible chocolate chip cookies
Irresistible chocolate chip cookies | Source

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who would have thought that something so wonderful as the chocolate chip cookie was a mistake? Let me explain, Ruth Wakefield ran an inn with her husband and was making cookies for her guests when she ran out of baking chocolate for her chocolate cookies. She had a bar of Nestle's chocolate and broke it into pieces and expected this to melt thus creating chocolate cookies. Well the hand of fate stepped in and as you know, the chocolate didn't blend through making chocolate cookies but made what we now call chocolate chip cookies. Her cookies became very popular and after the recipe was printed in the newspaper, the sales of Nestle's chocolate soared. Andrew Nestle approached Mrs Wakefield and together they did the deal to put her recipe on the back of the package. Mrs Wakefield received a lifetime supply of chocolate. Now can you guess what the name of her inn was? Of course it was The Tollhouse Inn.

Snugli Baby Carrier or Sling

Have you ever seen African women carrying their infants in a sling? If so, you will know where Ann Moore got her idea from. Whilst working as a nurse in West Africa she noticed how mothers carried their babies swaddled in a sling. The women often carried them across their back. This not only freed the mother to carry on with her daily activities, but the baby was calmer and more content being close to the mother.

When Ann Moore returned home, and decided to have a child, she and her mother designed a similar carrier. It was called the Snugli®. This has since been improved upon but the idea is still about keeping your baby safe, snug and close to the mother.

Disposable Diapers

Marion Donovan was so exhausted, having to clean up not only dirty diapers but soiled sheets as well. This made her determined to find a solution to this problem that so many mothers faced. Her idea started with a shower curtain. She stitched this into a leak proof covering for her child's diaper. Just 4 years later in 1951, Mrs Donovan had received 4 patents for her ideas and sold the rights to Keko Corporation for $1,000,000.

It is true, "Where there's muck there's brass".

The invention of the bra
The invention of the bra | Source

The Inventor of the Bra

The bra was invented by a woman named Caresse Crosby who decided one night not to wear the whalebone corset which was commonly worn as an undergarment. With the changing fashions, she wanted to wear a sheer evening gown and didn't like the way it protruded beneath her dress. She, with the help of her maid, stitched two silk handkerchiefs together and used ribbon as straps. The next day, her friends wanted to know more about it and where they could get one.

Kevlar vest
Kevlar vest | Source

Inventor of Kevlar®

Countless police officers owe their lives to the invention of a woman named Stephanie Kwolek. Whilst working with polymers to find a lightweight material to use in tires, she found a solution that wasn't what she wanted but instead of throwing it away, asked to have it tested in a spinneret. If you have ever watched cotton candy being made, this machine works on the same principle. The resulting fibers created, were stronger and lighter weight than any created before.

Dupont went to work to find suitable uses for this material and although we think of Kevlar® primarily in vests for the police and military it can be found in numerous other applications such as:

  • Brake linings to replace asbestos
  • Bicycle tires to reduce punctures
  • Racing sails
  • Suspension bridge cables
  • Skis
  • Safety helmets

The uses for this lightweight material, which is 5 times stronger than steel ounce for ounce are immense. Commercially Kevlar® creates sales of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Paper bag
Paper bag | Source

Plastic or Paper

If you live in the States, you will have heard this probably since you were very young. Every time you visit the grocery store you are asked which you would like. Now, you may not have thought about the humble paper bag but it was a woman who designed this. The flat bottom shape we take as normal, was one of Margaret Knight's inventions. She saw the sense by making it flat it would allow more items to be packed inside.

As Margaret Knight was in the process of finishing off her design and was planning to get a patent, a man named Charles Annan was plotting to steal her idea and patent it before she could. Margaret Knight took him to court and Mr. Annan's defense was "A woman couldn't have designed such an innovated machine." Margaret had all her drawings, notes, and models that proved to the court that it was indeed her design. She was awarded the patent.

A Self Cleaning House

Yes, you read this correctly and you can get in line behind me, because I want one as well.

The woman who has invented this is Frances Gabe

She has installed overhead spray jets, think of an automatic car wash in every room and you'll get the picture.The walls are coated with resin and at a push of a few buttons the walls, ceiling and floors are sprayed with soapy water, rinsed and dried.

Her wardrobe is a washer dryer and her kitchen cabinet is a dishwasher. The toilets, sinks and bath are self cleaning and the bookcase dusts itself.

Liquid Paper Correction Fluid

Bette Nesmith Graham turned her mistakes into her invention. This is how liquid paper was invented. Employed as a secretary at a bank in Texas, one of her tasks required typing. As mistakes were difficult to correct on early electric typewriters, Mrs. Graham, who had a background as an artist, realized artists don't erase, they paint over. It was this that gave her the idea to make a liquid that would cover her typing errors.

With tempera paint mixed in her blender and a waterpainting brush, she was now able to correct typing mistakes she made. For 5 years she did this without her bosses knowing. With the help of her son's* chemistry teacher, she perfected the solution and in 1956 she started her company making it. In 1979 she sold her company to Gilllette for $47.5 million.

* Her son is Michael Nesmith, the guitarist in the Monkees.


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