Important inventions by women



March 1, 2022

Elsa Sc S explores the world of female inventions

The world of inventions was predominantly a masculine domain as by the end of 20th century, female inventors could hardly claim credit for only 10 per cent of all patents awarded till then. This was considered a traditional normal and was not frowned upon. Women were mostly encouraged to take care of the finer things of life and develop social skills for acceptance within the wider society. They were also expected to rear family, manage household chores and keep matters conducive for their men folk. It was an accepted phenomenon and there was hardly any efforts to alter the status quo and no complaints were heard about in the social milieu.
The lack of their participation in this field was not due to want of ingenuity or a creative spirit but it was primarily due to the fact that they faced many hurdles in receiving credit for their ideas. The rules included intellectual property in the category of property and since women could not own property therefore an American Sybilla Masters who devised a new way to turn corn into cornmeal was denied a patent in her name and the patent was ultimately issued in 1715 in the name of Thomas, her husband. And then there was this angle of discrimination as women were also discouraged to obtain technical education depriving them the means to turn an ingenious idea into an actual product. It was as late as 1809 that an American woman Mary Kies obtained a patent in her name for developing a unique way of weaving straw into hats that was an economic boon for New England. She led the way for the female inventors who invented products of immense value.
Coloured flare system
21 years old widowed Martha Coston in 1847 was browsing through her dead husband’s notebooks in which plans for devising a flare system for ships to communicate attracted her attention. Her initial tests failed but she kept on improving the model for a decade by consulting scientists and military officers. The breakthrough came one night when she took her children to see a fireworks display prompting her to apply some pyrotechnic technology to her flare system and she succeeded. The US Navy bought the rights and used the system extensively during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the flare system did not provide Coston with the kind of money she was expecting and she complained the Navy’s refusal to pay to the fact that she was a woman
The Square Bottomed Paper Bag
Margaret Knight was aware that paper bags were more like envelopes and were unsuitable for carrying grocery. Knight imagined that a square-bottomed paper bag would distribute weight evenly and will be able to carry more merchandise. Margaret built a wooden machine in 1870 that was capable of cutting, fold and gluing square bottoms to paper bags. Her invention was stolen by her rival Charles Annan who applied for a patent and when challenged by Margaret he claimed that there was no way that a woman could have developed such a complex machine! Margaret proved her ingenuity by her notes and sketches to prove otherwise winning her patent in 1871.
Josephine Cochrane was spurred to action when her domestic servants indiscriminately broke her heirloom china after dinners. Cochrane was plunged in debt after her husband’s death but instead of selling her china she ventured on building a machine that would wash it properly. Her machine relied upon strong water pressure aimed at a wire rack of dishes and she received a patent for the novelty in 1886. She faced difficulties in promoting her invention as many households lacked hot water heaters necessary to run it and wealthy customers did not want to spend on a devise whose work was done by cheap labour. Cochrane however introduced her product in large hotel chains convincing them that the dishwasher could do the job which over a dozen employees were hired to do. As more women started working the dishwasher gained wide popularity and now is an essential household item.
Windshield Wiper
Mary Anderson travelled in a tram in New York City in the beginning of 20th century and noticed the discomfort of tram driver who halted the tram every few minutes to wipe of snow from his windshield. She was quite disturbed about the constraint faced by public transport operators. She painstakingly developed a squeegee on a spindle that was attached to a handle on the inside of the vehicle. It facilitated the driver in clearing the windshield by pulling on the handle and squeegee wiped off water in a jiffy. She received patent for her windshield wiper in 1903 and a decade later enabled thousands to buy and drive cars. Her invention is now an essential element of public transport. TW

Elsa Sc S is doing her graduation from LUMS & a keen researcher


The writ of international law
The writ of international law
M Ali Siddiqi looks at a crucial...
Resurgence of fascism
Resurgence of fascism
M Ali Siddiqi describes a dangerous...
President Xi Jinping
XI on his way to ruling China for life
M Ali Siddiqi talks about apparent...
Governance and equitable distribution of resources
M Ali Siddiqi talks about a long-standing...
The Need For Pakistan
The Need For Pakistan
M A Siddiqi expresses surprise...
The Presence And Essence Of Pakistaniat
The Presence And Essence Of Pakistaniat
M Ali Siddiqi describes a strong...

Get Newsletters


Subscribe Us