Would it surprise you to know that a woman invented windshield wipers?
It surprised me, but I'm not sure why.
After all, the old English proverb doesn't say "necessity is the father of invention."
I saw the inventor of the windshield wiper mentioned in social media recently because March is Women's History Month. The post was highlighting the changes women inventors had brought to our daily lives.
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Mary Anderson, a native of Alabama, reportedly visited New York in 1903 but had difficulty seeing all the sites from the trolley car she was riding in because of the snow covering the window. The driver would clean the window ever so often with his hand while driving, or stick his head out the side window to see.
So Anderson invented a spring-loaded rubber blade attached to a lever inside the cabin of the car that could be operated by the driver.
She was awarded U.S. Patent No. 743,801 for a "window-cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice or sleet from the window."
According to the History Channel, the wipers became standard equipment on automobiles by 1913, but Anderson never profited from her invention.
Yet a lack of recognition didn't stop women from finding ways to make their lives easier. In 1868, Martha Jones of Virginia became the first black woman to receive a U.S. patent. She invented a device that could husk, shell and cut up corn in one operation.
I have no idea where that device is now, but I will need it come midsummer.
In 1873, Mary Jones De Leon was awarded a patent for an apparatus that was the forerunner of buffet steam tables.
Still better than that is the 19-year-old woman who invented a comfortable bra after wearing one too many wire corsets. Mary Phelps Jacobs combined two handkerchiefs and some ribbon to form a comfortable bra that allowed more freedom of movement. When she patented her creation (No. 1,115,674) on Nov. 3, 1914, the garment was officially called a "brassiere."
Thank you so much.
Although the next invention proved quite profitable for its inventor, I don't need it as much now as I did in the past.
Bette Nesmith Graham, mother of Michael Nesmith of The Monkees musical group, invented a "white correction paint" while working as an executive secretary at a bank in Dallas. That was back when we all used typewriters instead of word processors.
Her invention was first called Mistake Out in 1956 and later Liquid Paper. Graham sold it to other secretaries when they saw how great it was.
She was fired from her job when she typed in her company's name instead of the bank's name on a correspondence. But that gave her time to tweak the formula and help the business grow. And grow it did.
By 1967, Graham's company had an automated production plant and sales that reached 1 million bottles a year. She sold the company to Gillette Corp. for $47.5 million in 1979 and died the following year of a heart attack.
Her son inherited half of Graham's money and the other half was willed to two foundations for the welfare of women.
While I am appreciative of windshield wipers, a comfortable bra and Liquid Paper, I truly would not be the woman I am today if it were not for Marion O'Brien Donovan, who developed the first waterproof disposable diaper.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
After World War II, Donovan sewed pieces of a shower curtain into a diaper cover that didn't leak and didn't cause diaper rash. The cover, which was reusable, was a container into which the person changing the diaper could stuff absorbent paper. She called it the Boater.
Manufacturers again were not interested, but Donovan got her product placed in Saks Fifth Avenue stores in 1949 and it was an immediate success. She received a patent in 1951 and sold the rights to Keko Co. for $1 million.
After that she began working on a fully disposable diaper that would keep the moisture away from the baby's skin, but again, there were no takers. Not for 10 years.
In 1961, Victor Mills, who had been trying to create a disposable diaper, meshed Donovan's ideas with his own to create Pampers.
Thank all of these ladies for stepping out of their assigned boundaries to make our lives easier.
One of the reasons for Women's History Month is to take inventory of who we are and not just accept someone's labels.