BY AMANDA MOSES
In 1987, Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month. This commemorative period celebrates the unrelenting fighting spirit of women who have made monumental achievements and blazed trails for generations to come.
Of the many occupations women had to fight for, one of the most difficult was the ability to be an inventor with patents in their name. Before the turn of the 20th century women had to constantly prove their worth and ingenuity, particularly when inventing in traditionally “male affiliated fields.” Women were not allotted equal property ownership, like an inventor’s patent, which is an intellectual license proving ownership of an invention. Inventing simply re-quires an inquisitive mind, one that can see a problem, contemplate a resolution, and then create a tangible solution. For any inventor or tinker, the phrase, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” is the key to their success. An invention is only successful if it’s useful, so there needs to be a necessity. Ironically, many of the Mothers of Invention had their ideas stolen or went through extreme difficulty gaining patents to prove ownership over their work.
Despite the numerous inequalities women have faced, they continue to be innovators overcoming difficult situations with ingenious solutions. In light of their accomplishments, the Spring Creek Sun will showcase a few of the many female inventors that have made significant contributions to today’s society.
Patricia Billings is a sculptor whose work in creating a substance to increase her artworks longevity transformed into a billion dollar revolutionary invention: a plaster that is indestructible and fireproof. In the 1970s, Billings became frustrated when her sculptures kept breaking, so she set on a quest to create a cement-like substance that would make her work last longer. It took her eight years, but she found the perfect recipe for what has been branded as, “Geo-bond.” This milky additive is a mixture of gypsum and concrete, creating a plaster that is both heat resistance and virtually indestructible. This invention has changed to course of modern construction be-cause it is also non-toxic.
Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist who created a super fiber called Kevlar, which is extremely strong and stiff. Kwolek was working at DuPont Company to help discover the next generation of strong fibers, when she uncovered molecules that formed a liquid crystalline solution, which can be spun into super strong fibers. Later named Kevlar, these fibers are used in protective vests, forming lightweight body armor for police and military. It is also used as an optical-fiber cable for boats, intertwined like rope to help suspend bridges and a cable for airplanes and other machinery. Kwolek received many awards for her invention: National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994 (the fourth female member of 113 inductees), National Medal of Technology (1996), and the Perkin Medal, presented by the Society of Chemical Industry (1997.)
Mary Dixon Kies was the first women to receive a United States patent (1809) for developing a process to weave straw with thread or silk helping to manufacture apparel, such as hats. Keis’ invention received positive appraisal from the First Lady Dolley Madison (wife of President James Madison). Madison believed that Keis’ invention helped to encourage domestic industries at a time when the United States had stopped importing European goods in an attempt to maintain neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars. Keis was a pioneer for women inventors to come; however, many still struggled to receive patents. In 1840 only 20 patents were awarded to females. Some protected their inventions by having them patented under their father’s or husband’s name, others had their designs stolen by men.
Sarah E. Goode was the first African American women to receive a US patent for her invention, the folding cabinet (now called a Murphy bed). Goode developed a wooden bed that when it was not being used could be folded into desk with compartments for writing supplies and other materials. This invention has evolved since it was first developed in the late 1880s, and is now the perfect way to maximize space as a Murphy bed, which folds into a wall.