Throughout the years, women have proven to be amazing at creating innovative multi-functional tools and devices that improve our everyday lives.
Yes, women did invent the dishwasher, but they have also made a great impact on the world of digital technologies as well.
Here are 20 things you probably had no idea were invented by women!
1. The dishwasher
The first-ever dishwasher was patented in 1886 by Josephine Cochrane. Josephine’s machine combined high water pressure, a wheel, a boiler, and a wire rack, like the ones still used for dish drying. Even though she had never used it herself, she definitely created something that makes life easier.
2. The Apgar Score
In 1952, Dr. Virginia Apgar began testing newborns one minute and five minutes after birth to determine if they needed immediate care. That’s how the Apgar Score was invented. It’s not only named after the doctor herself, but it’s also a backronym for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.
That’s right! We wouldn’t have computers today if it wasn’t for the bright-minded computer scientist Grace Hopper. Together with Howard Aiken, in 1944, Hopper designed Harvard’s Mark I computer, a five-ton, room-sized machine. She invented the compiler that translated written language into computer code. She even coined the terms ‘bug’ and ‘debugging’ when she had to remove actual moths from the device. Furthermore, in 1959, Hopper was part of the team that developed COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages.
4. The kevlar
Lightweight, high-tensile kevlar, used in armor, sports equipment, and cycle tires, for example, was invented by the DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek. As she was trying to perfect a lighter fiber for car tires, she accidentally created the kevlar and earned a patent in 1966.
5. Liquid paper
Nowadays, we don’t really feel the struggle of not having a ‘delete’ key while handwriting. The secretary Bette Nesmith Graham was ahead of her times when she secretly used white tempera paint to cover up her typing errors. After years of perfecting the formula, Bette finally patented the Liquid paper in 1958. What’s more, in 1979, Gillette bought her company for $47.5 million.
6. The foot-pedal trash can
The American psychologist and engineer Lillian Gilbreth was known for improving already existing inventions with small, but significant adjustments. In the early 1900s, Gilbreth designed the shelves inside refrigerator doors, made the can opener easier to use, and tidied up cleaning with a foot pedal trash can.
Yes, the world’s most famous board game was invented by a woman! Elizabeth Magie created The Landlord’s Game to spread the economic theory of Georgism – teaching players about the unfairness of land-grabbing, the disadvantages of renting, and the need for a single land value tax on owners. She patented the game in 1904 and self-published it in 1906. But it wasn’t until 30 years later when a man named Charles Darrow rejiggered the board design and message and sold it to Parker Brothers as Monopoly.
8. The circular saw
The weaver Tabitha Babbitt was the first person to suggest that lumber workers use a circular saw instead of the two-man pit saw, that only cut when pulled forward. Babbitt even made a prototype and attached it to her spinning wheel in 1813. Although her community didn’t approve of filing a patent, they definitely took advantage of her invention.
9. Windshield wipers
Back in 1903, many drivers were skeptical of Mary Anderson’s invention – the windshield wipers. They thought it was safer to drive with rain and snow obscuring the road than to pull a lever to clear it. However, Mary’s invention was eventually acknowledged. Moreover, Cadillac was the first to include them in every car model. Soon, many other car companies followed their example.
10. Disposable diapers
Every parent knows the struggle of putting up with all the mess of diaper changing. But it was all far more difficult before Marion Donovan created the waterproof diaper cover, originally made with a shower curtain. Saks Fifth Avenue was the first to purchase the invention. Donovan sold the patent to the Keko Corporation for $1 million and then created an entirely disposable model a few years later. Pampers was born in 1961.
11. Alphabet blocks
There is not a single child attending a kindergarten who hasn’t played with wooden alphabet blocks. They were patented by the anti-suffrage author Adeline D.T. Whitney in 1882, and they are still helping toddlers learn how to read today!
12. Folding cabinet bed
Maximizing space in small apartments is truly a talent. And Sarah E. Goode absolutely had it, as she invented the folding cabinet bed in 1885. This made her the first African-American woman with a U.S. patent. Goode’s fully functional desk could be used by day and then folded down for a good night’s sleep.
13. Marine signal flares
After Martha Coston found plans in a notebook that belonged to her late husband, she spent years working with chemists and pyrotechnics experts to make the idea of communication between ships a reality. However, when the patent was made in 1859, Mr. Coston got credited as the inventor, while Martha was only named administratrix.
14. The solar house
In 1947, the Hungarian biophysicist Maria Telkes built the very first 100 percent solar house. She invented the thermoelectric power generator to provide heat for Dover House, a wedge-shaped structure she conceived with architect Eleanor Raymond. Telkes used Glauber’s salt, the sodium salt of sulfuric acid, to store heat in preparation for sunless days. Amusingly, Dover House survived nearly three Massachusetts winters before the system failed.
15. Retractable dog leash
In 1908, Mary A. Delaney, a New York City dog owner, patented the first retractable leading device. As it’s attached to the collar, it keeps the pooches under control, while also giving them some freedom to roam. Interestingly, 11 years later, R.C. O’Connor patented the first child harness. Coincidence?
16. Invisible glass
The invisible glass that eliminates glare and distortion used in cameras, microscopes, and eyeglasses, was invented by Katharine Blodgett, General Electric’s first female scientist, in 1935. Her invention was born after she discovered a way to transfer thin monomolecular coatings to glass and metals.
17. Submarine telescope and lamp
The early inventor Sarah Mather created an incredibly useful combination between a telescope and lamp for submarines. Her invention was patented in 1845.
18. The paper bag
The cotton mill worker Margaret Knight invented the paper bag with a flat square bottom back in 1868. Previously, paper bags looked a lot like envelopes and were quite impractical. Knight patented her invention in 1871, after winning a lawsuit against Charles Annan, who tried to steal her design and promote it as his own.
The 3M chemist Patsy Sherman made a revolutionary discovery in 1952. She was absolutely perplexed when some fluorochemical rubber spilled on a lab assistant’s shoe and wouldn’t come off. Without changing the color of the shoe, the stain repelled water, oil, and other liquids. Together with her co-inventor Samuel Smith, Patsy named her discovery Scotchgard. Today, we know it as a stain and durable water repellent applied to fabric, furniture, and carpets to protect them from stains.
20. Central heating
Believe it or not, women do know a thing or two about heating systems. In 1919, Alice Parker created a revolutionary design for central heating. Even though it was never utilized, Parker’s invention was the first heating system that used natural gas, rather than wood, to heat a home.