Beautiful, intelligent, and smart women from around the world made groundbreaking discoveries and inventions throughout history, and they still continue to do so today. Unfortunately, society wasn’t very kind to some of these women, especially those before the 21st century! So, why is this? Because there was always a privileged, unfair, sexist man on the top of the chain. He favored his own sex and believed that women were naive, undeserving, and meant to raise families and take care of their homes. Over the past few centuries, many men stole the ideas and accomplishments of women. Even worse, they made money out of these stolen innovations, showed pride, and were treasured and respected for their corruption. Did you know that between 1901 and 2020, around 58 women were awarded the Nobel prize compared to the 876 men? Unfortunate, I know!
As G.D Anderson once said; “Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” and in honor of Women’s History Month, we need to reevaluate and change the unfavored past and not let patriarchy win this time.
Here are a few of the many women that rightfully deserve to be honored and celebrated for their work.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Radio Pulsars
Jocelyn is the astrophysicist who first discovered radio pulses in 1967 as a postgraduate student at Cambridge University. She was part of a research group that was led by her advisor; Antony Hewish, who initially seemed doubtful of her discovery and thought of it as just artificial noise. It was not until 1974; when Jocelyn’s theory was proved and Hewish and Martin Ryle, that a fellow astronomer shared the Nobel prize for this discovery. It was the first Nobel that the field of astronomy ever received, and Jocelyn’s major contributions were unacknowledged and overlooked until 2018 when she received a “Special Breakthrough Prize.”
Ada Harris: The Flat Iron
Around the early 1850’s women across the Atlantic were fascinated with how Marcel Grateau created waves with their hair using his ‘Marcel Wave’ tool, AKA the curling iron. While some women loved the look of wavy hair, another community of women was trying to get rid of theirs. Ada Harris was a schoolteacher in Indianapolis who invented the flat iron and acquired a patent for it in 1893. She flew across the country, to California to find investors but sadly, she couldn’t find any. History, however, credits Marcel Grateau for the flat iron despite the differences between the flat iron/hair straightener and the curling iron.
Chien-Shiung Wu: Disproved the Law of Parity
In 1956 three physicists: Chien-Shiung Wu, Chen Ning Yang, and Tsung- Dao Lee, worked on disproving the law of parity; one of the fundamental laws of nature at the time. Wu, who loved studying radioactive beta decay, was an essential part of the experiment conducted to disprove the law; paving the way for future physicists to research more on elementary particles. In 1957 Yang and Lee received a Nobel prize, but Wu wasn’t even mentioned. However, she continued to accomplish much more for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth Maggie Philips: Monopoly
Elizabeth was a stenographer and a secretary who in her free time, created a board game called “Landlord’s Game” which symbolized her take on current affairs and politics. They were two versions of this game: an anti-monopolist version where everyone was rewarded and a monopolist version, where only the superior won. She applied for a patent in 1903. However, it wasn’t approved until it was stolen 30 years later when Charles Darrow claimed the monopolist version his own in 1930 and sold “his idea” to the Parker brothers (board game makers from New England) to avoid any legal issues from Philip’s side. The Parker brothers only paid Philips $500, while Darrow was rewarded with royalties and eventually became a millionaire.
Caresse Crosby: The Bra
Try Googling Crosby; she’s everywhere, mostly as a socialite known for her several infamous lovers, and her extravagant life…but not for what she created! In 1910 when she was 19 years old, being presented at Connecticut’s debutante balls, she wasn’t pleased with the corsets. To avoid one, she stitched together two handkerchiefs and a ribbon to create what we now know a bra. In 1914 she patented her invention only to be sold to the Warner Brothers for $1,500 while Crosby was left in their shadows.
Jean Jennings, Ruth Lichterman, Frances Bilas, Marlyn Wescoff, Betty Snyder, & Kay McNulty: ENIAC Programmers
In 1946 during World War II, the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) was the first-ever computer invented. The army appointed these six women to “figure out how the machine works and then figure out how to program it,” under the mentorship of John Mauchly. Even though the machine was fully developed by the ENIAC Programmers, society only acknowledged John Mauchly and the efforts of the women had gone unnoticed.
Mary Anderson: Windshield Wipers
In 1902, Mary was on her way to New York from Richmond, Virginia when it was snowing, and the driver frequently stopped the streetcar on the side to clean the windshield. Unhappy with this problem, she had an idea that resulted in a windshield wiper that was connected inside the vestibule of the car. Anderson applied for a patent in 1903 and tried selling her ideas to car manufacturing firms, but they turned her offer down as it lacked “commercial value.” It was only in the late 50’s; when automobiles were manufactured on a large scale that the firms started using Anderson’s windshield wipers, but by the time they adapted to it, her patent expired, and a man named Robert Kearns claimed to be the inventor.
Miriam Benjamin: The Signal Chair
Did you know the button in an aircraft that’s used for calling a flight attendant, was called a Gong? Miriam Benjamin created a signal chair/gong for hotels and restaurants to call for a pager without waiting for them to notice you or loudly call for them. After she received her patent in 1888, she was approached by the media which eventually reached the House of Representatives. In a short period of time, the House chamber had installed signal chairs in addition to a few new modifications. Although they did use Benjamin’s idea and prototype, they never gave her credit.
Marion Donovan: Diapers
The first-ever diapers were invented in the late 1940s when Marion made a ‘boater’; AKA a diaper cover using the shower curtains. She then added buttons instead of safety pins which was a safer option that also prevented rashes. She patented her idea in 1951 and proposed manufacturers to produce them on a large scale. They obviously thought it wasn’t feasible and of no commercial value. Ironically, a decade later Victor Mills from Procter and Gamble (P&G) ‘worked’ on the engineering of Donovan’s diapers and eventually manufactured them on a large scale.
Men have had their fair share in the limelight, even when some of them did nothing to earn it. Women, on the other hand, have been overlooked in spite of having done greater things. It’s on us to embrace and acknowledge these amazing, intelligent, and innovative women. Let’s start with changing history; much of which was written by male chauvinists!