Have you ever used wifi, or a computer? Maybe you’ve tried chocolate chip cookies or ice cream? Well, you might be asking what do all these things have in common? These are just some of the most influential inventions created or contributed to by women. Women historically contribute significantly to our modern resources but get little to no credit for their accomplishments.
Women are the catalysts of change and innovation in many fields and aspects of life, so why do female inventors go fairly unnoticed? There are a variety of reasons for this, one being the pay gap which in turn prevents women from producing their ideas as easily as men do, as well as men stealing women’s ideas and claiming them as their own, but one other factor is that women in the U.S did not officially file patents until 1809, nearly twenty years after the first patent was filed in 1790 in the U.S. This gap, though fairly short compared to others, meant women’s innovations weren’t acknowledged or accredited properly for almost two decades! Gender discrimination didn’t end in 1809 and just because the first women filed a patent in 1809 does not mean all women regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, etc were allowed to file patents. We still have progress to make and gaps to fill. I hope this article can shine a light on just some of the women whose accomplishments deserve more acknowledgement than I could ever give them!
Women like Nancy Johnson, Hedy Lamarr, Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Ruth Wakefield can be accredited with creating some of our favorite tech, food, and pastimes. But these women’s accomplishments only scratch the surface of how women have been at the forefront of revolutionary designs and innovations.
Let’s look back at the woman who started it all: Sybilla Masters. Masters is considered the first female inventor and was the first person in the American colonies to receive an English patent. She couldn’t directly receive the patent as women were not allowed to do so; this meant she filed the patent under her husband, Thomas’ name.
The patent was for a corn refining, processing, and churning machine similar to a corn mill, but instead of using grinding wheels her machine used hammers. She also invented a new method of weaving straw and palmetto leaves into hats and baskets.
Sybilla started it all but she certainly didn’t end it. Since then we have seen a myriad of incredible inventions from women like Josephine Cochrane, who invented the most efficient version of an automatic dishwasher; Margaret Knight, who invented the square-bottomed paper bag; Mary Anderson, who invented the windshield wiper; Elizabeth Magie, who invented the first “Monopoly” game; and Anna Connely, who invented the fire escape. That is just to name a few! Women have contributed to every aspect of our lives from food, medicine, chemistry, transportation, physics, etc.
One of my personal favorite inventions aside from all the computer components and programming languages created by women, is the first 100% solar-powered home; Which was created in 1947 by Maria Telkes and Eleanor Raymond. I could elaborate eternally about women’s amazing contributions and inventions but, I hope this gives you a good idea of how women have shaped our modern societies for centuries to come.
With that, remember to appreciate women not only when you load your dishwasher or turn on your windshield wipers, but everyday!