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Think great inventions begin and end with Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford? Think again. Some of the world’s most useful inventions belong to the fairer sex. From Marie Curie to Mary Phelps Jacob to Mary Anderson, women hold their own in the world of problem-solving, practical inventions.
Next time you drive your car and it rains, say a prayer of thanks to Mary Anderson, inventor of the windshield wiper.
In 1905, the United States Patent Office issued a patent to Anderson for her device that cleaned rain, snow and ice off car windows. Operated from the inside of the car, Anderson improved driver safety and saved countless lives with her practical game-changer. By 1916, the windshield wiper became standard equipment on cars made in America – no more leaning out the window to see during bad weather!
The Ladies Thank You …
Proving that dressing up does have its advantages, Mary Phelps Jacob invented the modern brassiere when she discovered her whalebone corset poking out and through an evening gown she planned to wear. Dissatisfied and tired of being uncomfortable with the corset, a device designed to minimize a woman’s waist to unhealthy proportions, the USPO issued a patent for the “backless brassiere” in 1914.
… And So Do the Dishwashers
Josephine Cochran invented the first practical dishwasher, unveiled at the 1893 World’s Fair. Although she anticipated broad public support, only businesses responded and the modern dishwasher didn’t catch on with the public until the 1950s. The dishwasher company she founded eventually became KitchenAid.
… And the Mistake-Prone
Yet another practical female invention is liquid paper, commonly called white out. Bette Nesmith Graham, an aspiring artist and single mother who worked as an executive secretary to make ends meet, realized that she needed a way to correct mistakes easily while saving precious time. She invented white out at home in her kitchen blender using the reasoning that artists painted over their canvases all the time – why couldn’t secretaries?
After friends at work discovered Graham’s invention, white out spread like wildfire. She soon turned her kitchen into the “Mistake Out” factory – which she later named Liquid Paper – and devoted herself to her business full time after she made a mistake she couldn’t correct with her amazingly practical liquid.
Perhaps the best known female inventor of all time is Marie Curie, who discovered radium and polonium and advanced science’s knowledge of x-rays and their medical applications. Curie twice won the Nobel Prize, once for Physics (with her husband Pierre) and once for Chemistry. She is widely regarded in the scientific community as one of the finest chemists of the century.
Who Knows Who Will Become the Next Great Female Inventor?
The next time you are wandering at a science fair or convention, pass by the baking soda volcano and take some time to note the lady with the Vispronet flag perched near an odd-looking contraption. She may just wind up the 21st century’s finest inventor!