Women’s Day Special: 10 Women Inventors Who Changed The World

As India’s largest Maker’s Market and an enabler for many inventive women, this is our small way to celebrate these women who strove against odds to make a difference. Happy Women’s Day, Ladies!

Despite the many onerous challenges that women have faced and continue to grapple with, they have still managed to distinguish themselves in a number of ways. On Women’s Day, we take the opportunity to celebrate 10 women who changed the face of humankind with their inventions. As India’s largest Maker’s Market and an enabler for many inventive women, this is our small way to celebrate these incredible women who strove against massive odds to make a difference.

1. Margaret Knight: Square paper bags

We use square-bottomed paper bags all the time. For this, we have Margaret Knight to thank. She realized that paper bags without square bottoms were pretty useless. And so she decided to do something about it by inventing a machine to cut and attach flat bottoms to bags. But before she could patent the iron version of her machine, a man named Charles Annan stole her design and loudly proclaimed that no woman could think of something so complex. Of course, Knight would have none of it and filed a lawsuit against him and proved that the prototype was in fact hers. Happily, she won the case and gained the patent in 1871.

Margaret Knight: Square paper bags

Margaret Knight: Square paper bags

2. Anna Connelly: Fire escape

You don’t see too many Indian houses with fire escapes, but in the developed world they are a mandatory part of an apartment complex. But bet you didn’t know that the first outdoor fire escape with an external staircase was patented by a woman named Anna Connelly in 1897. Well, now you do. Soon after, in the 1900s, Connelly’s model would become part of many fixed building safety codes across the United States.

Anna Connelly: Fire escape

Anna Connelly: Fire escape

3. Dr. Grace Murray Hopper: Computer software

Men are better than women at all this computer stuff, right? Think again. And you’re better off not jumping to such narrow-minded conclusion. For, fact of the matter is that it was a woman, Dr Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist, who invented COBOL, the first user-friendly business computer software program in the 1950s. In 1969, she was awarded the first ever Computer Science Man of the Year Award. Yes, the first Computer Science Man of the Year was a woman. Hah!

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper: Computer software

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper: Computer software

4. Maria Beasley: Life raft

If out of the blue, somebody asked you who invented the life raft, you’d probably not think twice to credit a man for it. You’d be so wrong. But it’s not your fault. It’s a man’s world and we’ve been conditioned to think in this chauvinistic manner. So speaking of life rafts, one day in 1882, one Maria Beasley probably looked out at the sea and said something like so, “People should stop dying in transportation by sea disasters.” But she didn’t stop at that. She decided to do something about it and invented a life raft. What a life saver, eh?

Maria Beasely: Life raft

Maria Beasley: Life raft

5. Letitia Geer: Medical syringe

Another life saver was this woman, Letitia Geer. In 1899, she invented a medical syringe that could be operated with only one hand. And, thanks to the convenience it bestowed on the medical fraternity, it furthered the cause of modern medicine by leaps and bounds. Now the next time your doctor injects you with only one hand, you might want to consider giving Latitia Geer a big hand for making it so much easier and less painful.

Letitia Geer: Medical syringe

Letitia Geer: Medical syringe

6. Florence Parpart: Electric refrigerator

The electric refrigerator seems like such a complicated wonder of the world. And it is. Guess what, this complicated boxy, masculine-looking thing was invented by a woman, Florence Parpart in 1914. But the electric refrigerator is not the only thing this resourceful lady invested. Before that, Parpart had already distinguished herself in 1900, when she was awarded a patent for a vastly improved street-cleaning machine, which she marketed and sold to cities across America.

Florence Parpart: Electric refrigerator

Florence Parpart: Electric refrigerator

7. Marie Van Brittan Brown: Close circuit television

CCTV is an integral part of our lives now. They were invented by Marie Van Brittan Brown, whose system for closed-circuit television security was patented in 1969. She came up with it to help people ensure their own security, as police were slow to respond to calls for help in her New York City neighbourhood. It is this invention of hers that forms the basis for modern CCTV systems used for home security and police work today.

Marie Van Brittan Brown: Close circuit television

Marie Van Brittan Brown: Close circuit television

8. Katharine Blodgett: Invisible Glass

Katharine Blodgett, General Electric’s first female scientist, discovered a way to transfer thin monomolecular coatings to glass and metals in 1935. The result: glass that eliminated glare and distortion. Clearly, it revolutionized and changed the way we look through and at cameras, microscopes, eyeglasses, and more.

 Katharine Blodgett: Invisible Glass

Katharine Blodgett: Invisible Glass

9. Mary Anderson: Windshield wipers

Driving in the rain without a windshield wiper was considered normal before Mary Anderson invented the first manual windshield wipers in 1903. In fact, even after she came up with this simple and brilliant idea, drivers thought it was safer to drive with rain and snow obscuring the road than to pull a lever to clear the way and see better. Later, in 1917, another woman inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, invented an automatic version of Mary Anderson’s invention by enhancing it with an electric roller. That, too, drivers didn’t consider useful or necessary. But by the time Anderson’s patent expired in 1920, windshield wipers were showing the way forward and Cadillac was the first to include them in every car model. Soon, other companies soon followed.

Mary Anderson: Windshield wipers

Mary Anderson: Windshield wipers

10. Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar

Kevlar is super-strong. How could a woman have invented it? Well, here’s how and who. The chemist Stephanie Kwolek, working diligently and quietly, invented the incredibly resilient Kevlar fibre that was first used to make bulletproof vests. And in case you’re wondering how strong Kevlar is and how many other things it is used for, Kwolek’s invention is five times stronger than steel and has about 200 other uses.

Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar

Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.

0 Comments

No comments!

There are no comments yet, but you can be first to comment this article.

Leave reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shares