Women are responsible for many inventions we use in our everyday life, some of which will surprise you. Unfortunately, it has not been easy for women to attain the recognition that comes with a successful product. These women made enduring contributions to humanity, but they had to fight for their acceptance. We should be grateful for these creations, remarkable or mundane, for the improvements and conveniences they bring.
10. The Apgar Scoring System
Each life begins with this score. All newborns are tested during the first five minutes of their lives. It is crucial to determine their medical condition and provide immediate care if needed. Now this test is known as an acronym: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. However, it was named for the inventor, Virginia Apgar. She was the first woman with a full professorship of Anesthesiology and specialized in surgery and childbirth. In 1952, she provided the Apgar score. Earlier doctors paid more attention to the mother’s condition, and child mortality was very high. Now, through using this score almost in every hospital all over the world, infant mortality has decreased to 7 per 1000 births. In addition to the test, Virginia Apgar has devoted all her life to researching and preventing infant defects. She was one of the to first realize that viruses, infections, and RH incompatibility were dangerous for a child but the Apgar system was a significant breakthrough for the world of newborn care.
9. Signal Flares
Martha Coston, the inventor of the Coston Night Signals, had a hard life. At twenty-one, she became a widow with four sons. Her husband Benjamin Coston was a scientist, inventor, and worked for the U.S. Navy. Regrettably, he died young because of the harmful effects of chemicals he used. He left little money, so Martha had to earn a living by herself. One day, she found in her husband’s notes an idea to use light signals at sea instead of colored flags and loud screams. Martha spent almost ten years to carrying out this plan. Her invention was so great that U.S. Navy bought the patent rights to the flares for $20,000. The Coston Night Signals became a basis of ship communications. This invention helped to win battles and save many lives.
8. The Foot-Pedal Trash Can
Lillian and Frank Gilbreth were a couple who worked together in efficiency management. They were the first to decide to use psychological methods to improve the productivity of workers. After Frank’s sudden death, Lillian continued their work and concentrated on household management, something she was keen to the importance of after having twelve children. She invented essential kitchen appliances, such as the foot-pedal trash can, door shelves inside a refrigerator, and electric food mixer. Lillian Gilbreth, in addition to being the first female member of the National Academy of Engineering, was also a skilled entrepreneur. She had developed her inventions according to consumers’ needs, so she successfully sold all patents. Thanks to Lillian Gilbreth we have many improved goods in our homes and use them every day to make our life more comfortable.
The story behind the game Monopoly is associated with a scandal and injustice. The original game was called Landlord’s Game and was created by Elizabeth Magie. She wanted to implement Henry George’s anti-monopolist ideas about single land value tax for owners, including wealthy landlords, and taught this theory to her friends and colleagues. In 1904, she received only $500 for her patent and no royalties. Because of the gender disparity of the time, it was well known that women didn’t need an education, personal capital, and certainly couldn’t invent anything, therefore, a patent commissioner didn’t mention Lezzie’s name in the game’s patent application. The Landlord’s Game was popular for about thirty years, until “Parker Brothers” started selling Monopoly by Charles Darrow. This game was looked like the original version, but Darrow came up his own story about the game’s creation and didn’t mention Elizabeth. Today we know the real creator, but sadly the main idea of “single tax” was forgotten, and players try to become the monopolists and bankrupt the rest.
6. The Paper Bag
Most grocery stores use paper bags. Even so, few people know how they were created. In the 1860s, Margaret Knight was working in a paper plant when she invented a machine that automatically made paper bags with flat bottoms. She couldn’t receive money for her patent though, because a man named Charles Annan who discovered her machine while visiting, had already sold the same patent. Fortunately, Knight was a determined woman, and she went to the courts. Alan’s defense included the only one argument, that a woman could never design such amazing invention. But Margaret presented her notes, drawings and other pieces of evidence to the contrary, and she won the suit. In 1871, she received money for her patent. Margaret Knight was a great inventor and continued to do what came to her naturally, giving us many more innovations, such as the rotary engine and shoe-cutting machine.
5. The Dishwasher
The dishwasher creator, Josephine Cochrane, led an ordinary and prosperous life. Her husband was a successful young businessman, so she had nothing to worry about, except the heirloom China. One day, her servant broke a few dishes while washing them. Upset, Cochrane decided to help her servants and create a machine that could do their job. She began her research that would help her create the blue prints of her future dishwashing machine. After she had been constructing her invention for a few months, her husband fell ill and passed away. He left behind many debts, so Josephine had to finish her invention just to survive. Eventually, a mechanic named George Butters helped her hammer out the last of technical kinks, and she received her patent on the dishwashing machine in 1886. Cochrane believed that housewives would be interested in her invention, but they weren’t. Her first clients were actually hotels and restaurants. A few years later, she founded her own company to manufacture dishwashers. Cochrane’s creation became popular among homemakers only after her death. In 1916, Hobart bought her company, to be renamed the Whirlpool Corporation.
4. Windshield Wipers
In the early 1900s, Americans actively used streetcars, but they were difficult to drive safely when it rained or snowed. A driver had to open a front window to move away rainwater and snow often while the streetcar was moving. Mary Anderson noticed this problem and decided to create a device that could clean off the windshield instead of the driver. She invented mechanical windshield wipers and received a patent in 1903. Her device was made from wood and rubber, and was attached to a lever near a driver. Unfortunately, streetcar manufacturers had no faith in this invention and concluded that it was more likely to distract drivers than physically cleaning their windows themselves. It wasn’t until 1913 that her wipers became appreciated. Now every modern car is equipped with windshield wipers to protect drivers in bad weather. Sadly, Mary Anderson didn’t receive any profit for such necessary and useful invention.
3. The Solar House
In 1950, Maria Telkes, a researcher, and Eleanor Raymond, an architect, presented their idea called the Dover House, a house that was completely heated by the sun. A similar house had been built a few years earlier, but it was heated only during sunny days. Telkes solved this problem by using the sodium salt of sulfuric acid, which effectively saved heat energy from sunlight. A solar house looked like an ordinary building, except for the metal and glass panels behind the windows that absorbed sun energy and directed it into storage containers integrated into the walls. These containers were filled with the sodium salt mentioned earlier, so it stored warmth in sunny weather and gave it away in cool weather. The Dover House was an innovative house, and it worked successfully for two and half years, until corrosion processes destroyed the storing containers. Short-term, this experiment failed, but these creative women made a huge step towards a future totally sun-heated house.
2. The Circular Saw
In the early 1800s, Tabitha Babbitt, who was a member of the religious community of Shakers, had noticed that pit saws used in her community to cut wood, were not effective and needed improvements. A two-handle pit saw cut wood when two men moved it back and forth. However, the back movement wasn’t productive, so men were wasting their energy. Tabitha got an idea to increase saw productivity. She constructed a model which consisted of a circular blade and a spinning wheel. This device was powered by a wheel pedal and is now known as a circular saw. This made the work of cutting wood much easier and more effective. In accordance with her religious views, she never patented her creation and shared it for free.
In the 1960s, famous chemist and pioneer for women in science, Stephanie Kwolek, invented a lightweight but extremely strong substance, named Kevlar. It was an unexpected discovery while she was working on improvements to car tires. Kevlar is an extraordinary material. It is used for protective clothing and equipment, sports equipment and even in the space industry. Kwolek’s invention continues to save thousands of lives and to advance plenty of contemporary technologies.