It is March, and St. Patrick’s Day is this month,
While we don’t spend very much time in school learning about female inventors that doesn’t mean many of them haven’t made significant contributions to the way we live. Even during times when women’s rights were limited and women in the workplace were hardly imaginable, the great minds of female inventors were still at work. Though they may not always get the credit, history cannot be rewritten to keep these ingenious women out of the books.
The Landlord’s Game was invented by Elizabeth Magie to teach the economic theory of Georgism. The idea was to forewarn players about the dangers of land-grabbing, the disadvantages of renting and to promote the need for a single land value tax. Although Maggie patented the game in 1904, a man named Charles Dorrow “borrowed” the idea, changed up the board design and sold it to Parker Brothers thirty years later. The company only paid Magie $500 with no royalties. Oh, and they made the board game it into a movie.
Grace Hopper, along with Howard Aiken, developed the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944. Hopper created the complier that translated written language into computer code. She helped to develop one of the first computer programming languages “COBOL” and coined the term “bugs” and “debugging” in relation to computers.
3. The Circular Saw
In 1813, Tabitha Babbit attached the prototype of a circle shaped saw onto her spinning wheel and insisted that lumberers use it instead of the two-man pit saw. Her invention was regularly used but her Shaker community didn’t allow her to file a patent.
4. Invisible Glass
General Electric’s first female scientist, Katherine Blodgett, revolutionized cameras, microscopes, glasses and much more when she figured out a way to eliminate glare and distortion in glass.
5. Liquid Paper
To conceal her typing errors, secretary Bette Nesmith Grant used tempera paint to cover them up. Though she spent years perfecting the formula for “Liquid Paper” it all eventually paid off when Gillette bought her company in 1979 for $47.5 million.
6. The Foot Pedal Trash Can
Lillian Gilbreth (and her husband) were known for redesigning pre-existing inventions to make them more ergonomical, efficient and convenient. Lillian added the foot pedal to a trash can to make it easier to use. She is also known for putting shelves in refrigerators.
7. Windshield Wipers
In 1903 Mary Anderson invented manual windshield wipers. However people felt it was safer to drive in snow and sleet than to pull a lever. Another woman, Charlotte Bridgewood, invented the automatic windshield wipers in 1917 but those weren’t a success either. It was only in 1920, coincidentally (we think not) when Anderson’s patent expired, that windshield wipers started to become a staple of automobiles.
8. Square-Bottomed Paper Bags
Though a man named Charles Annan tried to steal Margaret Knight’s design for a square-bottomed paper bag, in 18971 she won the patent rights in court. Paper bags originally resembled envelopes but in 1868 Margaret Knight, a cotton mill worker, invented a machine that could produce them with a more useful flat square bottom.
In 1966, Dupont chemist Stephanie Kwolek accidentally invented kevlar when she was trying to develop a lighter fiber for car tiers. The result was a lightweight material, five times stronger than steel, that is now used in bulletproof vests.