Mothers of Invention: Here are some extraordinary women responsible for revolutionary innovations

Reading Time: 3 minutes Throughout history, women have invented useful gadgets to enhance space research and travel, medical research, ease practical day-to-day struggles, and so much more.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Even though as of 2018 only 10 percent of U.S. patent holders were women, they have been responsible for some of the most practical and useful things ever invented. 

Mary Kies was the first woman ever to be granted a U.S. patent. She earned her patent in May 1809 for her unique method of weaving straw with silk. She wove several bonnets for women and her technique was eventually adopted by the hat-making industry in New England.  

Deepika Kurup, born in 1998 and currently studying at Harvard University, invented a revolutionary water purification system. Her system removes contaminants from water using solar energy. Kurup also founded Catalyst for World Water, which Harvard Innovation Labs described as “a social enterprise that catalyzes solutions to the global water crisis by harnessing solar energy for water purification.”

In 1984, Rachel Zimmerman invented the Blissymbol Printer for her school science fair. She was only twelve years old when she developed this software, which translates Charles Bliss’ language made of pictures to give disabled people the ability to communicate using computers. Zimmerman currently works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and was a part of their Cassini mission to Saturn. 

Olga D. González-Sanabria is one of the people responsible for powering the International Space Station. She helped develop the long-life nickel-hydrogen battery in 1971. She has worked for NASA since 1979 and is now a director of engineering. González-Sanabria has received several awards and honors, such as the Presidential Rank Awards and the YWCA Women of Achievement Award. 

During her time as a pediatric nurse with the Peace Corps in Togo, Anne Moore noticed that mothers were carrying their babies using fabric slings. This prompted her to invent the Snugli and Weego baby carriers in 1969. These revolutionary designs allow mothers to hold their babies and still have free hands. 

A toaster with a digital timer might a simple thing that people often take for granted these days, but if it weren’t for Ruane Sharon Jeter in 1987, people would never get to choose exactly how toasted they want their items to be. A toaster with a digital clock isn’t the only thing Jeter invented, however. She has also accumulated several patents for handy medical gadgets from the disposable scalpel to the self-injection device. 

Edith Flanigen, who is known as “one of the most inventive chemists of all time,” dedicated the 42 years she spent with Union Carbide to creating synthetic substances. She developed over 200 throughout her career, including a substance used to refine petroleum, called zeolite Y. 

Despite not receiving a college degree, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner has received the most patents of any African American woman. She is known for early innovations in menstrual products, toilet paper holders, carrier attachments for walkers and wheelchairs, and more. 

These are only a few of the numerous extraordinary women responsible for inventions to ease daily life, enhance medical research, further space research, and make the world a better overall place. Several women have also contributed to science and research outside of these fields as well and overall have helped prove they deserve a place in engineering and science. 

Although many outstanding women, like Kenner, have shown that having an education is not a prerequisite or requirement to become a renowned inventor, more and more women are joining STEM career fields and majors, ultimately increasing the potential women have to make lasting changes in the world.

At UVU, women make up 12% of the 2020-2021 graduates who received their bachelor’s degree in engineering. And as of fall 2022, it was reported that more females than males are enrolled at UVU, so this number is only expected to increase.