25 Josephine Cochrane: The Dishwasher
It is believed that Josephine Cochrane invented the dishwasher out of mere frustration. She was actually angry with her domestic help as they used to break and chip her fine china quite often. Cochrane’s dishwasher needs high water pressure aimed at a wire rack of dishes. She, however, received a patent for it in 1886.
Well, most houses didn’t have the technology of a hot water system to run such a machine in the era she was in. But, Cochrane did not give up and sold her idea to hotels and restaurants. And gradually, dishwashers became a common household need as women started entering the work place.
24 Mary Phelps Jacob: The Modern Brassiere
Jacobs was the first to come up with the concept of Brassiere that could support the breasts up from the shoulders and separated them into two individual shapes. Even though people had experimented with Brassieres before, it was the idea of “separating the breasts” that made her design unique. She was awarded a US patent in 1914.
Women’s undergarments were uncomfortable before Brassieres (or bras). They contained whalebones and steel rods which virtually squeezed the wearer into “shape”. When in contrary, Jacobs’ design was soft and light and conforming to the wearer’s anatomy.
During WWI her bra design became popular when the U.S. government requested that women should stop purchasing corsets in order to conserve metal. However, by that time Jacobs had already sold the patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company.
23 Grace Hopper: BM-Harvard Mark 1
Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper is known as the “mother of computers”. DO you know why? Well, after WWII, Hopper was stationed at Harvard. She was constantly working on the development of the IBM-Harvard Mark 1, the first large-scale computer in the U.S.
Dr. Hopper was also the inventor of the compiler, which could translate written language into computer code. She coined the term “bug” for a computer problem and also co-developed COBOL, the first user-friendly business computer software program.
She was awarded with numerous awards during her lifetime including the National Medal of Technology in 1991. By the time she passed away, Dr. Hopper was able to bag honorary degrees from at least 30 universities.
22 Mary Anderson: The Windshield Wiper
Imagine the early 1900s when drivers had to stop every few blocks to wipe their windshields during rain or snow! Mary Anderson is the name of the lady who was able to solve it. Although cars were rare at the time, Anderson took a notice to the situation. By 1903 she could successfully invent the wipers. It was the ingenious squeegee on a spindle attached to a handle inside the car. The drivers only had to pull down on a handle to clear the windshield.
People were initially uncertain of Anderson’s windshield wiper. They thought it would distract the drivers. But it was only after 10 years of her patenting the device, it became a common use in any car. Here is another interesting fact for you! It was a woman inventor too, Charlotte Bridgwood who first patented the automatic windshield wiper in 1917. She named it “Storm Windshield Cleaner”.
21 Hedy Lamarr: Secret Communications System
The “Secret Communications Systems” could manipulate radio frequencies with an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy. Do you know who the inventor was? Well she was Hedy Lamarr who received a patent for the same in the year 1914.
Lamarr was raised in Austria and married a millionaire, who was a Nazi sympathizer and arms dealer to Hitler during WWII. It was only after marriage when she could learn about advanced weaponry as she used to accompany her husband to business meetings.
But eventually, she started to hate the Nazis and escaped to London and then to the U.S with her husband. The device she invented with Anthiel was meant to be used against the Nazis in WWII. But it came into use only 20 years later.
20 Margaret Knight: The “Queen” of Paper Bags
Previously, paper bags were shaped like an envelope, with no flat bottom. It was definitely hard to fit your food into that and people carved for solutions. Margaret Knight easily solved this issue by creating a machine to cut, fold and glue square bottoms to paper bags.
She could acquire a patent for it in 1871. She also filed a lawsuit against a fellow who tried to steal her idea. His defense was “a woman could never design such an innovative machine!” But she had all the drawings to prove her invention and won the case.
Knight started her career with inventions from a ripe age of 12. She also developed a stop-motion device that could immediately bring the industrial machines to a halt if something was caught in them. She was awarded over 26 patents during her lifetime.
19 Tabitha Babbitt: The Circular Saw
In the early 1800s, two men were required to work a lumber saw by pulling and pushing, back and forth. In 1813, Tabitha Babbitt created the circular saw and made the process much easier.
Babbitt made the saw circular so that the teeth would continue cutting as opposed to the straight saws that only cut on the pull and not the push motion. We also use her other building innovations, like machine-cut nails instead of individually hand-crafted nails.
She was also a Massachusetts Shaker community member who helped a great deal in inventing tools for furniture making. She lived a simple Shaker life and never applied for patents.
18 Stephanie Kwolek: Bullet Proof Vests
Stephanie Kwolek is the inventor of Kevlar. It is actually a tough durable material used in making bulletproof vests. For years she’d worked on the process at DuPont. In the year 1963, she actually got hold of the polymers or rod-like molecules in fibers and lined them up in one direction.
This made the material stronger than others, where molecules were arranged in bundles. In fact, the new material was as strong as steel! The same technology was used while making suspension bridge cables, helmets, brake pads, skis and camping gear.
17 Rachel Zimmerman: The Blissymbol Printer
Blissymbol Printer is software invented by a Canadian 12-year-old in the mid-1980s. The printer enables people with severe physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, to communicate.
The user can record their thoughts by touching symbols on a page or board by using the special touch pad. The will then translate the symbols into a written language.
Zimmerman’s system started as a project for a school science fair, but ended up competing and winning a silver medal in a nationwide contest along with the YTV Television Youth Achievement Award.
16 Bette Nesmith Graham: Liquid Paper
Betty Nesmith Graham invented Liquid Paper or commonly termed as White-Out.
Graham got an idea from sign painters where they used to add another layer of paint to cover-up mistakes. She used a kitchen blender to mix-up her first batch of substance to cover-up over mistakes made on paper at work. Well, it was after a lot of experimentation and getting fired for spending so much time distributing her product as a trial, she finally received a patent in 1958.
15 Alice H. Parker: The Gas Heating Furnance
Parker, an African-American inventor filed the first U.S. patent for the precursor to a central heating system in 1919. The system could regulate the temperature of a building and carry heat from room to room.
The drawings for the patent included a heating furnace powered by gas. Since an entire house will require several heating units, each will have to be controlled by individual hot air ducts. The ducts will direct heat to different parts of a building structure.
Well after the invention, people no longer required to chop or buy wood and coal to stay warm. Not much has been known about Parker’s life, but her invention of the heating furnace has surely revolutionized the way we live today.
16 Sarah E. Goode: The Foldaway Bed
Goode is the first African-American woman to be granted a U.S. patent in the year 1885 for her awesome invention of the Foldaway Bed. The bed could be easily tucked-up into a cabinet when not in use. This attractive piece of furniture could be used as a roll top desk or a stationary shelf. Goode ran a Chicago furniture store too.
Bibliographies say that Goode was born a U.S. slave in around 1800 and was emancipated after the Civil War. After the invention of the Foldaway Bed not much was recorded about her life. But all we know is that many versions of her original bed design are still made today.
13 Martha Coston: Colored Signal Flares
Martha Coston discovered the concept for colored flares in her dead husband’s notebooks. She spent 10 years working with scientists and military officers to figure out how to make a long-lasting and easy to use flare.
It was on a family outing when a firework display caught her attention. She was inspired to incorporate pyrotechnics into the design. The results turned out to be what we today know as the red, white, and green “Pyrotechnic Night Signal” system.
The U.S. Navy bought the rights to the signals from her. History says that she was only paid a fraction of what was owed. The same system was seen to be adopted by the governments of France, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Haiti.
12 Dr. Ellen Ochoa: Optical Analysis Systems
Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic female astronaut and a research scientist for NASA. Her invention was patented in 1987. Her invention is used for quality control in the manufacturing of various intricate parts. Ochoa also patented an optical system that could be used to robotically manufacture goods or in robotic guiding systems. She has received 3 patents, the most recent one in 1990. Dr. Ochoa is also a veteran of three space flights.
11 Dr. Maria Telkes: Home Solar Heating System
Dr. Maria Telkes was a biophysicist who invented the first home solar heating system. She had her childhood in Hungary and later moved to the States in 1925. Telkes became an American citizen and joined Westinghouse Electric as a research engineer in the area of energy conversion where she had to convert heat energy into electrical energy.
10 Patricia Bath, M.D.: Laser Cataract Surgery Device
Patricia Bath is the first African-American female doctor to patent in 1988 for her new method of removing cataracts. Her medical laser instrument made the procedure more accurate. She termed it as Laserphacoprobe. Bath is also the first Black Female Surgeon appointed to UCLA in 1975. As a laser scientist and inventor, she has proudly owned 5 patents on the laser cataract surgery device covering the United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe.
9 Ann Moore: The Snugli® Baby Carrier
Moore was a Peace Corps nurse during the 1960s. It was during that time that she was inspired to create the Snugli®, a kind of specialized carrying cases. She was inspired from African mothers carrying babies in fabric slings tied securely on their backs and thought of trying the same. But her baby daughter kept slipping. After much brain storming she came up with the idea of backpack and modified and refined the design until it worked.
8 Lyda Newman: Improved Hairbrush
Newman is not the original inventor of the hair brush but her improvements to the brush made her a significant contributor to its evolution. She was one of the many who played a vital role in the development of hair-care products during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
7 Patsy Sherman: Scotchgard™ Stain Repellent
Sherman’s invention of Scotchgard™ is considered to be a “happy mistake”. She was a research chemist with 3M. In 1953 a lab mishap with fluorochemicals occurred which led her way into the awesome discovery. An assistant accidentally dropped a bottle of synthetic latex that Sherman had made and splashed onto the assistant’s white canvas tennis shoes. The substance did not change the look of the shoes. But it couldn’t be washed away by any solvents and repelled water, oil and other liquids.
6 Marion Donovan: Disposable Diapers
Donovan is the successful inventor of waterproof baby diaper cover that prevented diaper rash. She came up with this invention while debuting at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949 and named it “Boaters.” Prior to her invention she couldn’t get manufacturers to work with Boaters, so she struck out on her own. This inventive spirit made way into the creation of the disposable diapers, Pampers® in 1961.
5 Ruth Wakefield: Toll House Chocolate Cookies
Ruth Wakefield is the inventor of the Toll House Chocolate Cookies. Once she ran out of baker’s chocolate while making a batch of cookies that required melted chocolate for her guest. She substituted the recipe with a crushed Nestles chocolate bar. The pieces of chocolate could hold the shape which became an instant hit!
4 Barbara Askins: New Film Development
Barbara Askins was a NASA chemist who invented a film that used radioactive materials to enhance negatives. It could enhance images even after pictures were developed.
3 Theora Stephens: Curling Hair Iron
Theora Stephens was an African-American hair dresser and technician who patented the curling iron in 1980.
Prior to Stephens many individual’s made their contributions in inventing beatification tools for different purposes and were involved with the evolving curling iron. Previously it needed to be heated in a fire which came off as a real challenge to control the temperature. Stephen is credited for offering a special status to the historical curling iron.
2 Marjorie Joyner: Permanent Hair-Wave Machine
Marjorie Joyner is the inventor of Permanent Hair-Wave Machine that allowed a hairdo to stay set for days. She backed it up with a cap that made it safer and more comfortable to use. Joyner was the grand daughter of slaves and was the first African-American to graduate from a beauty school at Chicago. She opened her own salon in 1916.
1 Sara Blakely: Spanx Undergarment
Sara Blakely is the youngest self-made female billionaire from America. She invented Spanx, the women slim down with the popular elastic underpants. She has been featured on the cover and was interviewed by Forbes’ 2012 annual billionaire issue. Blakely, today is a member of the elite group of “self-made” mega-rich women that includes Oprah Winfrey and Meg Whiteman.
During the manufacturing process, Blakey took $5,000 in savings and built it into a $500 million dollar-a-company. She has no outside investors in her company. Spanx was never let out for advertisement. It is similar to a firm fitting pantyhose but without the feet. It is light, smooth and looks like a controlling “second skin”.
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