10 things you might not know were invented by women

Did you know that an Austrian-born American actress invented the basis for all modern wireless communications? That the precursor of the Monopoly game was meant to teach players about the economic ill effects of land monopolism?

From tech to medicine, from games to life-saving tools, here some of the most brilliant cutting-edge inventions have been made by women, many of which we use every day.

The dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochran in 1872. Though other prototypes existed, it took a woman’s common sense to create a dishwasher that actually cleaned the dishes. Cochran’s design was the first that used water pressure rather than scrubbers to remove debris. Patented in 1886, the first dishwasher combined high water pressure, a wheel, a boiler, and a wire rack like the ones still used for dish drying. After her husband passed, she began marketing her inventions to hotels until, eventually, it became the standard household appliance we now know today.

Fire escape invented by Anna Connelly in 1887. Tenement fires were much more deadly before Connelly invented an external metal staircase, the very first fire escape. Anna Connelly invented and patented the first outdoor fire escape in 1887. Connelly’s design made buildings safer by preventing people from falling in the panic of an emergency. Her design also allowed firefighters to more easily haul water to specific areas of the structure. Her invention led to some of the first building codes in New York City, which required a second means of egress from buildings in the event of an emergency.

Medical syringe invented by Letitia Mumford Geer in 1899. For centuries before Greer’s invention of a one-handed syringe, medical professionals had been using syringes that required both hands to administer injections. On Feb 12, 1896, Letitia filed for a patent application, then obtained in 1899. Through this invention, Letitia has changed the world and its concept of medical treatment. Even modern syringes are inspired by Letitia’s idea.

Windshield wiper invented by Mary Anderson in 1903. After receiving a patent in 1903, Anderson tried to sell her new windshield cleaning device to a manufacturer, who refused, stating that her invention lacked practical value. Her windshield wipers failed to take off before her patent expired and it was 10 years before a similar device became standard on cars. Much like many great inventors, Mary wanted to solve a problem. She saw how unsafe it was to drive in bad weather when she visited New York City in 1902. She quickly came up with a working model that used a lever inside the car to control a rubber blade on the windshield. Though she had trouble selling her invention at first, eventually Cadillac included her invention on its vehicles in 1922. Anderson never received any money for her invention. However, she did finally get some credit in 2011, when she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.

The First Monopoly Game invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1904. Originally designed to demonstrate the evils of unchecked capitalism, Magie’s “The Landlord’s Game,” was patented in 1904. 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. Nearly 30 years later, a man named Charles Darrow rejiggered the board design and message and sold it to Parker Brothers as Monopoly. The company bought Magie’s patent for the original game for $500 and no royalties.

Electric refrigerator invented by Florence Parpart in 1914. In a time when people were still using ice-boxes, Parpart patented an electric refrigerator that she successfully marketed and improved upon for years. Florence Parpart invented the modern electric refrigerator in 1914. During 1900, she worked on several research projects and had a chance to patent an improved street-cleaning machine. Finally, she came up with another creation “Electric Refrigerator” which she marketed and sold to companies in America at high prices. Parpart was highly successful in marketing and selling her refrigerators. She attended multiple trade shows, developed her own advertising campaigns and managed the production operations, alongside her husband, of additional refrigerators. Parpart was a true female entrepreneur and gifted inventor.

Wireless transmission technology invented by Hedy Lamarr, who also happened to be a movie star, in 1941. During World War II, Lamarr created a frequency-hopping communication system that could guide torpedoes without being detected. Her groundbreaking work paved the way for the modern invention of WiFi, GPS, and bluetooth.

Computer software invented by Grace Murray Hopper in 1952. Women in computer science have a role model in Grace Hopper. She and Howard Aiken designed Harvard’s Mark I computer, a five-ton, room-sized machine in 1944. Hopper invented the compiler that translated written language into computer code and coined the terms “bug” and “debugging” when she had to remove moths from the device. In 1959, Hopper was part of the team that developed COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages.

Rosalind Franklin discovered the DNA Double Helix. The discovery of the DNA double helix is often attributed to James Watson and Francis Click, who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery in 1962. However, they weren’t actually the ones who made the discovery. The first person to capture the photographic image using x-ray diffraction was British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin. Though her two competitors stole credit for the discovery long ago, Rosalind has more recently begun to receive credit for her contributions.

Bullet-proof fiber Invented by Stephanie Kwolek in 1966. Stephanie Louise Kwolek was an American chemist who worked at the DuPont company, where she discovered the first of a family of synthetic fibers of exceptional strength and stiffness: poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide. While working with these fibers, she went on to invent Kevlar, a very strong, lightweight, and heat resistant fiber. This revolutionary fiber has saved countless lives in the form of bullet-proof vests, and is also used in numerous applications, such as bridge cables, canoes, and frying pans.

This blog contribution was made by Eleonora Papini.

Eleonora is originally from Italy, she is passionate about human psychology, sustainable development and international cooperation. Eleonora works as a Project Implementation Officer in a European project about urban sustainable development solutions aimed at valuing the young and female entrepreneurship industry.

In 2021 became also a Data Analyst for the LMF Network and content creator for their blog.

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Sources:

  • Josie Green, 2019. Who invented the dishwasher, windshield wiper, caller ID? Women created these 50 inventions.
  • Amanda Green, 2018. 19 Things You Might Not Know Were Invented by Women.
  • Kashyap Vyas, 2021. 24 Inventions by Women You Might Not Be Aware Of.

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