When someone says the word “inventor,” prolific and history-making men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Washington Carver and Benjamin Franklin spring to mind. But what about all the women who invented amazing things, women we don’t hear about very often?
We’ve rounded up eight awesome things — many of which we all use frequently — that you probably didn’t know were invented by ladies. Here’s to entrepreneurial girl power:
Mary Anderson thought up the windshield wiper out of necessity in 1903. During a road trip from Alabama to New York City, Anderson noticed drivers stopping to clear snow and ice off their windshields. Soon after, she came up with the windshield wiper — an arm with a rubber blade that could be activated without getting out of your car. She applied for a patent in 1904, and it was issued in 1905. Although the device did not gain popularity until nearly a decade later, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to drive without windshield wipers today.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
OK, so maybe it isn’t altogether surprising that a woman thought these up, but seriously we are so grateful she did. A world without chocolate chip cookies (and by default chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and Chipwich ice cream sandwiches) is no world at all. In 1930, Ruth Wakefield — a dietitian and food lecturer who, with her husband, also owned a lodge named the Toll House Inn — was making cookies for guests of her inn and realized that she was out of baker’s chocolate. She broke up pieces of a Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bar, thinking that the chocolate would mix in and melt during baking, but it didn’t. And thus, a much more delicious history was made.
We have Elizabeth Magie to thank for the creation of one of the most classic board games, Monopoly, though it was originally called The Landlord’s Game. Magie — who was a game designer — applied for the patent in 1903 and was granted it in 1904. According to Mental Floss, Magie was inspired to create The Landlord’s Game “to demonstrate the tragic effects of land-grabbing.”
The Solar-Heated Home
Hungary native Dr. Maria Telkes is responsible for the invention of the first home solar-heating system. She moved to the U.S. in 1925 and worked at MIT on the university’s Solar Energy Research Project. In the 1940s, she developed the first solar-heated home with architect Eleanor Raymond.
We don’t actually know the individual who first created beer, but according to research conducted by historian Jane Peyton, for thousands of years brewing beer was a woman’s domain. According a 2010 Telegraph piece: “Nearly 7,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Sumeria, so important were [women’s] skills that they were the only ones allowed to brew the drink or run any taverns.” Beer was even considered a gift from the goddess. Maybe marketers should think about that next time they decide to make a terribly sexist beer ad.
The Square-Bottomed Paper Bag
Your grocery shopping would be much more difficult without Margaret Knight. She realized that paper bags without square bottoms weren’t all that useful, so she invented a machine to cut and attach flat bottoms to bags. According to How Stuff Works, before she could patent the iron version of her machine, a man named Charles Annan stole her design, claiming that no woman could think of something so complex. Knight filed a lawsuit against him and proved that the prototype was in fact hers. She gained the patent in 1871.
The Fire Escape
The first outdoor fire escape with an external staircase was patented by Anna Connelly in 1897. In the 1900s, Connelly’s model would become part of many mandatory building safety codes across the United States.
Anyone who dons a bulletproof vest should know about the work of Stephanie Kwolek. Her research with chemical compounds for the DuPont Company led her to invent Kevlar — the material used in said vests — which was patented in 1966. Kwolek didn’t just invent Kevlar. She secured 28 patents during her 40-year career with DuPont and was even inducted into the Inventors’ Hall of Fame.
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