Women inventors have played an important role in American history, but have not always been recognized for their work. Besides the fact that their contributions have at times been understated and overlooked, women – especially women of color – have historically had fewer resources to apply for US patents and commercialize their inventions.
Not all of the inventors on this list have received attention for their work in their lifetime or have not been able to commercialize their inventions. But all of them have brought innovations that have helped advance technology in their respective fields.
1. Life raft
In the early 1880s, when a new wave of European immigrants sailed to the United States, a Philadelphia inventor named Maria E. Beasley designed an improved life raft. Unlike the flat life rafts of the 1870s, Beasley’s raft had guard rails to help keep people inside in case of an emergency when they had to abandon ship.
Beasley patented her first liferaft design in 1880 in the United States and Great Britain, and received a second U.S. patent for an updated version of the raft in 1882. In addition to the liferaft, she also invented a foot warmer, generator stream and barrel strapping machine, having received a total of 15 US patents and at least two in Great Britain during his lifetime.
2. Folding bed
In 1885, Chicago inventor and furniture store owner Sarah E. Goode received a patent for her “Cabinet-Bed.” The new piece of furniture was a desk that folded out into a bed, saving the user space in a small apartment.
Goode’s invention predates the wall beds and pull-out sofas of the 20th century. With her fold-away bed, Goode – who was born into slavery and won her freedom after the Civil War – became one of the first black women to patent and invent with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
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Josephine G. Cochran was a wealthy socialite from Shelbyville, Illinois, when she had the idea of inventing a dishwasher. Cochrane employed servants to do the housework in her mansion, but she began washing her fine china herself when she discovered that some of the servants had accidentally chipped them. Cochrane found her brief exposure to housework distasteful and decided to build a machine that could wash the dishes for her.
The result was the first commercially successful dishwasher, patented by Cochrane in 1886. Previous attempts at dishwashers had used scrubbers, but Cochrane’s design was more efficient because it used water pressure to clean the dish. washing up. With her secure patent, she founded the Crescent Washing Machine Company of Cochran. Because the machine was too expensive for most households, Cochran sold most of its dishwashers to hotels and restaurants.
4. Car heater
The first person to patent an automobile heater was Margaret A. Wilcox, an engineer in Chicago. Wilcox’s 1893 design used heat from the car’s engine to keep drivers and passengers warm while traveling. Later engineers improved the idea by making it easier to regulate heat.
Wilcox’s other inventions included a combination of clothes and a dishwasher, which didn’t spread in the same way.
5. Feed tube
Bessie Virginia Blount, also known as Bessie Blount Griffin, was an American nurse, physiotherapist, inventor, handwriting expert, and possibly the first black woman to train in Scotland Yard’s Records Division. In the 1940s, she worked with World War II veterans at the Bronx Hospital in New York (now part of the BronxCare Health System), where she taught amputee veterans to read and write with their teeth and feet. It was during this work that Bount invented a device that his patients could use for food.
Blount’s invention involved a tube that delivered food to a person’s mouth every time they bit on it. She patented part of the design in 1948, then ceded the rights to the invention to the French government in 1951 on the advice of a religious leader (the US government had not shown much interest in the device).
His invention paved the way for modern feeding tubes, which can be inserted into a person’s nose or stomach if the user cannot ingest food orally. After patenting the feeding tube, Blount continued to invent and became a forensic writing analyst.
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Stephanie L. Kwolek was a chemist who created synthetic fibers while working at DuPont’s pioneering research lab in Wilmington, Delaware. The most famous she created was Kevlar, a strong, lightweight, heat resistant synthetic fiber.
Kwolek patented the Kevlar manufacturing process in 1966. Kevlar is used in body armor and other protective gear, and it has also become a substitute for asbestos since the 1970s, when companies began to use it. reduce the use of carcinogenic material.
7. Home security system
Marie Van Brittan Brown was a black nurse and inventor in New York City who, along with her husband, Albert Brown, patented the first home security system in 1969. Brown came up with the idea for the security system because she and her husbands worked long hours as an electronics technician, and she often found herself coming home to their apartment and being alone late at night.
The system Brown invented involved a sliding camera that could capture images through four different peepholes in his doorway, television monitors to display images from the camera, and two-way microphones that allowed him to speak with anyone in front. his door. There was also a remote control to unlock the door remotely and a button to alert police or security. This system paved the way for modern security systems and has been cited in at least 32 subsequent patent applications.
8. Treatment of cataracts
Patricia E. Bath was the first black American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first black female doctor to patent a medical device in the United States. The device she invented was the Laserphaco probe, which removed cataracts – cloudy imperfections in the eye that can lead to vision loss.
Bath’s new methods of removing cataracts were faster, more precise, and less invasive than previous methods. She obtained her first procedural U.S. patent in 1988, and received four other U.S. patents related to her cataract removal innovations during her lifetime, in addition to patents in Japan, Canada and Europe. She died at the age of 76.
9. Isolation of stem cells
While working in Palo Alto in 1991, Asian-American scientist Ann Tsukamoto was part of the team that patented the first method of hematopoietic stem cell isolation in 1991. Tsukamoto holds a total of 12 US patents for his stem cell research, which has helped with the development of cancer treatments.