9 Everyday Items Invented by Women

In 1987, March was declared Women’s History month by Congress in order to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of both women of the past and the future. Below are just some of the inventions made by women, some of which we could not live without.

1. Square Bottomed Paper Bags

In 1871, Margaret Knight received her patent for a machine that could produce square-bottomed bags in 1871, after a long legal battle with a fellow machinist, Charles Anan, who tried to steal her work by arguing that such a brilliant invention could not possibly have been invented by a woman.

2. The Dishwasher

Josephine Cochrane, a socialite who liked to frequently entertain, was annoyed that her servants kept breaking her china. So, in 1886 she invented the first workable dishwasher. She marketed her invention to hotel owners and eventually opened her own factory.

3. 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.

4. Windshield Wipers

In 1903, Mary Anderson noticed drivers stopping to clear snow and ice off their windshields. Anderson started drawing her solution of a rubber blade that could be moved from inside the car. She applied for a patent in 1904, and it was issued in 1905. However, the invention proved to be unsuccessful with car companies, who believed it would distract drivers. Anderson never profited from her invention, even when the wipers later became standard on cars.

5. The Refrigerator

Florence Parpart, a historical mystery, was indeed the inventor of the modern ‘fridge’. In 1914, she won a second patent for the modern refrigerator. She was listed as a housewife in the U.S census for most of her life, although of course those few historical records pertaining to her inventions would have you believe otherwise.

6. Central Heating

Every time you walk over to your thermostat to turn up the heat in the winter think of Alice Parker, who invented a system of gas-powered central heating in 1919. While her particular design was never built, it was the first time an inventor had conceived of using natural gas to heat a personal home, and inspired the central heating systems of the future.

7. The Foot Pedal Trash Can

Lillian Gilbreth improved existing inventions with small, but ingenious, tweaks. In the early 1900s, she helped to tidy up cleaning with a foot pedal trash can. This simple invention is now one of the most used types of trash cans in homes. Gilbreth is most famous for her pioneering work in efficiency management and ergonomics with her husband, Frank.

8. Wireless Transmission Technology

Hedy Lamarr's invention of a secret communications system during World War II. Working to combat Nazi transmissions during WWII, her and co-inventor George Anthiel warped radio frequencies to break difficult code. The invention would go on to prove extremely useful during the Cuban Missile Crisis and their work has now translated into tech such as WiFi and Bluetooth.

9. The Hairbrush

Lyda Newman, although not the original inventor, is credited for how hairbrushes look and feel today. She introduced the synthetic bristles to the brush and got a patent for this invention back in 1898. Before Lyda, people were using Boar’s hair to brush their locks. Lyda’s bristles collect the impurities in your hair and allow for easy removal after you’ve finished.

Next time you throw away trash, go to the grocery store or sit down to brush your hair thank the women who invented these objects that we use daily. Without these inventions our daily lives would be much harder and not as enjoyable. 

Photo Credit: Cover by Audrey Ampomah,1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 by Eleanor Ritzman, 9

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