Happy International Women’s Month, everyone! This month is all about honoring the contributions made by women throughout history (though I think it shouldn’t be limited to just a month, right?). As we all know, women before didn’t have many opportunities as men. In fact, it was only in 1809 when a woman first received a patent in the US. Before this, it was illegal for women to own property. To this day, only a small percentage of patents belong to women even though women account for half of doctoral degrees in science and engineering. To bring more women inventors into the spotlight, here are some of the most groundbreaking inventions by women.
Radium and Polonium
First on the list is none other than the queen of radioactivity (not an official title), Marie Curie. This world-renowned physicist discovered radium and polonium and later on got the Nobel Prize with her husband Pierre. She won a second Nobel Prize for creating a means to measuring radioactivity. Putting her research to good use, she developed small x-ray units that were used in diagnosing injuries during World War I, saving the lives of countless soldiers.
Marine biologist Jeanne Villepreux-Power invented the first-ever aquarium which she used in several of her experiments on aquatic organisms. She is also known as the Mother of Aquariophily. However, she wasn’t always the bada$$ scientist that she was eventually known for. When she was 18 years old, she was a popular dressmaker. This just proves that it’s never too late to change careers and follow your dreams.
Ice Cream Maker
Nancy Johnson invented and patented the first ice cream maker in 1846. She and her sister Mary were volunteers for the American Missionary Association. In 1862, she and Mary taught freed slaves in South Carolina as part of the Port Royal Experiment.
Submarine Lamp & Telescope
Sarah Mather got the patent for the submarine telescope in 1845. It was used to investigate wrecks and see into damaged ship hulls and enemy activity during the civil war.
I’m not surprised that a woman invented the dishwasher. I bet countless hours of washing the dishes finally caught up to Josephine Cochrane. Just kidding. She actually invented the dishwasher to protect her fine china and to avoid handwashing them herself. Now, that’s a woman who knows what she wants and gets things done, right?
Maria Beasley’s life rafts had an improved design that had guard rails that were fireproof and foldable for storage. These were used in the Titanic and helped save over 700 lives. This woman also invented the barrel-hooping machine. Talk about being a serial inventor.
Anna Connelly’s invention was a huge contributor to New York City’s building code which required residential buildings to have a secondary means of escape for emergencies.
Letitia Greer invented the one-handed syringe in 1899. Before this, medical professionals used syringes that required both hands to administer injections.
The First Monopoly Game
Elizabeth Magie originally designed the first Monopoly with her 1904 patented game “The Landlord’s Game”. Thirty years later, a man patented a very similar game called Monopoly and later on sold it to Parker Brothers.
Coffee company Melitta was named after Melitta Bentz who invented the coffee filter. With her invention, coffee lovers found an easy and simple way to make coffee. All it took was placing the coffee in a filter and pouring hot water over it.
Caller ID and Call Waiting
Award-winning theoretical physicist Shirley Ann Jackson contributed a lot to the world of telecommunications. Apart from discovering caller ID and call waiting, she also made contributions to solar cells and fiber optics.
Paper Bag Machine
Margaret Knight received the patent for this machine in 1871 after a frustrating battle against a man who claimed that there was no way a woman could have invented such a thing. This is the same machine that produces square-bottomed paper bags.
The first bullet-proof vest was invented by Stephanie Kwolek. This fiber is also used in many applications such as bridge cables, canoes, and frying pans.
Marion Donovan first invented the leak-proof diaper before moving on to the fully disposable diaper. Male manufacturers did not see the necessity of this invention. It was a good thing that Saks Fifth Avenue decided to bet on her invention.
Stem Cell Isolation
Ann Tsukamoto co-patented the process of isolating stem cells from bone barrow. Who knew this would be a big part of cancer research and would help save the lives of hundreds and thousands of people?
The Home Security System
Because of the slow response from the police in her neighborhood, Marie Van Brittan Brown took matters into her own hands and invented the home security system with closed-circuit television.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ruth Wakefield is the genius behind what was originally called the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. She accidentally discovered it when she added baker’s chocolate to her cookie batter, thinking the chocolate would blend with the batter. Instead, they remained chunky, and hence the world’s first chocolate chip cookie.