You often hear of great men changing the world through their inventions, but you don’t often hear about all the great things that women have created. And to your surprise, you’d find a lot of these inventions being used by both men and women. Things such as modern bulletproof armour, the windscreen wiper and the original paper bag have all greatly impacted the world and made it a better place…
1. Josephine Cochrane – The Dishwasher
It was only after intense frustration that Josephine Cochrane decided to invent the dishwasher. Her hired help continually chipped and broke her fine china, so she concocted a high-pressure hose that pointed at a wire rack of dishes. Her idea was sold to hotels and restaurants and later commercialised into homes.
2. Mary Phelps Jacob – The Modern Bra
Prior to Bras, women’s undergarments were uncomfortable. Containing whalebones and steel rods, they virtually squeezed the wearer into “shape”. Jacobs’ design was in contrast, soft and light, conforming to the wearer’s anatomy.
Jacobs received a patent for it in 1914, described as a device that supported the breasts up from the shoulders and with two individual shapes. The idea had been around for a while, but her separation of the breasts made the design unique.
3. Grace Hopper – BM-Harvard Mark 1
Admiral Dr Grace Murray Hopper is known as the “mother of computers”! After WWII, Hopper was stationed at Harvard, where she worked on the development of the IBM-Harvard Mark 1, the first large-scale computer in the U.S.
Dr Hopper also invented the compiler, which translates written language into computer code. She coined the term “bug” for a computer problem, and co-developed COBOL, the first user-friendly business computer software program.
4. Mary Anderson – The Windshield Wiper
Can you imagine, in the early 1900s if it was raining or snowing, drivers had to stop every few blocks to wipe their windshields? Mary Anderson solved that. Although cars were rare at the time, Anderson took a notice to the situation and by 1903 she invented the wipers. It was the ingenious squeegee on a spindle attached to a handle inside the car. All the driver had to do to clear the windshield was pull down on a handle.
People were initially leery of Anderson’s windshield wiper, thinking it would distract drivers, but 10 years after she patented the device, virtually every car used her invention.
5. Hedy Lamarr – Secret Communications System
The patented “Secret Communications Systems” manipulated radio frequencies with an unbreakable code to prevent enemies from intercepting the message.
Growing up in Austria, Lamarr grew to despise the Nazis and escaped to London and then to the U.S. The device she invented was meant to be used against the Nazis in WWII, but in actuality, it came into use 20 years later.
6. Margaret Knight – The “Queen” of Paper Bags
There weren’t too many alternatives to holding groceries before the invention of the paper bag. Knight solved this problem by creating a machine to cut, fold, and glue square bottoms to paper bags.
She gained a patent for it in 1871 after winning a lawsuit against a fellow who stole her idea. His defence was “a woman could never design such an innovative machine,” but she had the drawings to prove the invention was in fact hers and she won the case.
7. Tabitha Babbitt – The Circular Saw
In the early 1800s, two men were required to work a lumber saw by pulling and pushing, back and forth. But thanks to Tabitha Babbitt, the process became much simpler. In 1813, Tabitha Babbitt created the circular saw, which meant that teeth could consistently cut without the back-and-forth motion.
8. Stephanie Kwolek – Bullet Proof Vests
Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, a tough durable material now used to make bulletproof vests. For years she’d worked on the process at DuPont and in 1963, she got the polymers or rod-like molecules in fibres to line up in one direction.
This made the material stronger than others, where molecules were arranged in bundles. In fact, the new material was as strong as steel.
9. Rachel Zimmerman – The Blissymbol Printer
The Blissymbol Printer is a software program that enables those with physical disabilities like cerebral palsy to communicate. It was invented in the mid 80’s by a 12 year old Canadian girl.
The user records their thoughts by touching symbols on a page or board through the use of a special touch pad, the printer then translates the symbols into a written language.
10. Bette Nesmith Graham – Liquid Paper
Liquid paper was invented after Graham noticed how sign painters would cover up mistakes with just another layer of paint. She went home and used a blender to mix up her first batch of substances to experiment with this idea. After long hours and even being fired from her job for spending too much time on it, she received a patent in 1958.
Do you know of any other world-changing inventions that were created by women? If you do why not let us know in the comments below.