Question: What do the inventors of the following products have
The first washing
The first dishwasher,
The first car heater,
The first medical
The first windshield
The first engine
Answer: They were all women.
There are many interesting facts about female inventors that you
probably don't know. For example, women were not allowed to own
property during parts of the 1700s and 1800s. Since patents are
considered property, women were not allowed to get patents on their
For example, Ann Mathews invented a process for cleaning and
curing corn in 1715. She is believed to be the first woman whose
invention eventually received a patent, although it was granted to
her husband. Some inventors applied for patents by using their
initials instead of their first names, and it is likely that some of
these inventors were women. There were other women besides Ms.
Mathews who filed for patents in their husband's name.
So when did female inventors break through the gender barrier?
Mary Kies is believed to be the first woman known to receive a
patent herself. She patented her process of weaving straw with silk
in 1809. She did not receive a patent number for her invention,
though, because the patent office didn't issue patent numbers until
1836. Approximately 10,000 non-numbered patents were issued prior to
1836, and most of those were lost when a fire destroyed the patent
office building that year.
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The first black woman to receive a U.S. patent was Sarah Goode in
1885. Goode owned a furniture store in Chicago when she patented a
In 1890, fewer than 1 percent of U.S. patents were issued to
women. By 2002, that number had risen to 15 percent.
In 1991, Gertrude Elion became the first woman inducted into the
National Inventors Hall of Fame, which is located in Akron, Ohio.
Elion and her colleague George Hitchings created drugs to fight
leukemia, gout, malaria, herpes and AIDS. Elion was involved with 45
patents altogether and was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in
Ms. Elion wasn't the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, though.
That honor went to Marie Curie in 1903. It was another woman, Bertha
von Suttner, who helped convince Alfred Nobel to establish the Nobel
Peace Prize, which she won in 1905. Altogether, 31 women have won
the various Nobel Prizes since they were established in 1901.
It probably comes as no surprise that women invented the first
washing machine and the first dishwasher, since women did nearly all
of the housework in those days, but women also invented the Kevlar
used in bulletproof vests, as well as fire escapes, laser printers,
Liquid Paper, Scotchgard and the COBOL computer language, just to
name a few.
Who was it who told me that in 1890 fewer than 1 percent of U.S.
patents were issued to women?
The person who, at the time, was editor of Inventor's Digest
magazine. And in case you're wondering, yes, she is a woman.
[Text from file received
from Paul Niemann]
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2007