How much of your life has been shaped by women?
The purpose of this archive is to show, just exactly, how much of our modern lives have been shaped by women. The women mentioned in this archive invented items from coffee filters to kevlar, and rarely got the credit they deserved.
To further your understanding of the impact woman inventors have on our modern day please first see the slider feature. This feature is intended to help readers understand the inventions made by women by taking readers through a typical rainy day. The slider has been organized chronologically to represent one full day. All of the inventions readers will see have been invented and patented by women. The women included represent women of all colors. All the inventions serve as the basics to the products we use today, so they are not organized chronologically.
Once readers have read through the slider they should scroll down to the tile gallery of biographies. This feature is intended to explain the inspiration behind each invention, and a brief history of each woman.
Readers should then see the section titled "Archival Silences." This section is especially important to hear the story of woman inventors from different perspectives. Because many women did not receive credit, they were not mentioned in the public eye with the exception of the US Patent Office.
Lastly, readers should read the "Who Got Credit" section to understand why an archive such as Woman Inventors is so vital to include in our modern history. History is written by the winners, and the winners at the time of many of the inventions featured were men attempting to take credit from revolutionary, smart women.
Wake up and turn your central heating up a few degrees.
Change your baby's diaper with a disposable diaper.
Iron your clothes you are planning on wearing for the day.
Get ready for the day by curling your hair with a curling iron.
Make yourself a cup of coffee using a coffee filter.
Set your disarm home security system before walking out the door.
Get in your car to go to work. It's raining outside so you turn on your windshield wipers.
You've had a long day at work and cannot wait to spend some quality time with your kids and husband. On your way home from work you pick up some Toll House Cookie Dough.
You sit down with a plate of fresh cookies and watch a movie with your family. The movie you are watching was shot through a camera with an improved lens.
The movie is over and you clean up before going to bed for the night. You wash the dishes in the sink and run them through the dishwasher.
You see that there a few cookies left over. You put them in a paper bag to save for the next day.
A Day with Women Inventors
Ruth Graves Wakefield's Toll House, in Whitman, Massachusetts, is pictured on a postcard. After graduating from the Normal School's Department of Household Arts in 1924, Ruth Graves Wakefield worked as a dietician and food lecturer. In 1930, she published Ruth Wakefield's Recipes: Tried and True, which went through 39 printings. One of her recipes was for the tollhouse chocolate crunch cookie, named for the Toll House Inn, a restaurant and boarding house she owned with her husband, Ken Wakefield. To this day, Nestl├⌐ prints both her recipe and the Toll House story on the back of its chocolate chip packages. In 1969, she donated her cookbook collection to the college.
Commonly Used Inventions
- Mary Anderson: Windshield wiper
- Margaret Knight: Paper bag
- Josephine Cochrane: Dishwashing machine
- Ruth Wakefield: Toll House cookie dough
- Melitta Bentz: Coffee filter
- Sarah Boone: Ironing board
- Marie Van Brittan: Home security system
- Katharine Blodgett: Improved camera lens
- Marion Donovan: Disposable diaper
- Alice Parker: Central heating system
- Marjorie Joyner: Hot comb
What are archival silences?
Archival silences are the unspoken truths of a particular moment in history. Examples of archival silences are slave narratives, because many slaves passed their narratives down through song because they could not write. Even if slaves did write their narratives down, they would not be covered by the polarized press at the time of slavery.
Why are archival silences important?
One must consider what is not being said in any part of history. One must question every part of history, truly break it down, and piece back together only the parts that are positively true. This includes questioning what is featured in an archive and what is not. We all know that history is written by the winners, but do the losers have the opportunity to make a statement?
Archival Silences in Women Inventors
When going through Women Inventors readers can deduce that the majority of documents, photos, and histories are sources from smaller publications rather than large databases. This is due to archival silences. Many of the women featured in this archive have been given credit after their deaths, and after being honored in their obituaries. However, before their deaths many people in the general public had no idea of their contributions to our modern world.
Did everybody get credit?
Mary Anderson, inventor of the windshield wiper, did not receive any credit for her invention. After she invented the windshield wiper she went to many manufacturers pitching her product. Everyone rejected her and did not take her up on her pitch. Ten years later every car sold came with windshield wipers. Anderson's patent expired and she never made any money off of her invention.
Margaret Knight, inventor of the machine to make paper bags, almost did not receive credit. She patented her invention on July 11, 1871 and was spied on by Charles F. Annan who attempted to steal her patent.
Lise Meitner, credited with the discovery of nuclear fission, received credit eventually. Meitner did not have the opportunity to share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to her partner Otto Hahn. The pair had been working with their discovery in harmony until this hiccup. Many people quickly identified that this action of not honoring her work was unfair which led to her having chemical element 109 being named "meitnerium."
Sources and Credits
All images and information is sourced from the DPLA unless otherwise stated.