To be an inventor means having the creative mind to develop ideas that no one else has thought of before. Male inventors throughout history tend to receive much more credit and recognition for their inventions and creations. My question is: What about the women? Women throughout history have been responsible for some of the most successful inventions to date. They have contributed inventions that changed the way the world works, that solve problems, that make things more efficient, and much more.
These women are more than inventors, they are innovators. They created some of the most brilliant ideas. Here are inspirational quotes from 20 brilliant female inventors of our time.
Madam C.J. Walker
Best known for specializing in African-American hair products, Madam C.J. Walker is one of the first black women to become a self-made millionaire. In 1908, Madam Walker opened her own factory, as well as a beauty school. She created cosmetics and trained other beauticians who spread her hair care methods. This led to Madam Walker becoming a widely successful innovator who is still celebrated to this day.
I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.
As creator of the first synthetic fiber family that showed remarkable strength and stiffness, Stephanie Kwolek became a well-known and respected chemist. Her fibers have been used as protective agents for many items such as ropes, vests, boats, and even airplanes. Stephanie was the 4th woman ever to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. After her groundbreaking invention, Kwolek continued to educate other female scientist and became a part of a program that educated and helped children with science as well.
All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and playing around with things.
The inventions contributed by Temple Grandin don’t stop at just one. With her love for animals and their humane treatment, she went on to create several inventions which cut back on mistreatment and stress upon livestock animals, such as the diagonal pen, cattle restraint systems, and other livestock handling designs. As someone with the autism disorder, Grandin was also able to understand the needs of others with the disorder and created the hug machine, which provides a deep pressure “hug” to calm down the user.
I am different, not less.
Better known for her acting skills, Hedy Lamarr was actually an inventor of a communication system that helped to fight the Nazis during WWII. Her invention, created along with George Antheil, sent out irregular manipulated radio frequencies at different intervals to create a coding system that could not be broken or intercepted. Hedy Lamarr is a great example that beauty does not mean a lack of brains.
I know why most people never get rich. They put the money ahead of the job. If you just think of the job, the money will automatically follow. This never fails.
A true innovator, Dr. Patricia Bath was the first African-American to achieve a residency in ophthalmology. In addition to that, Bath was the first African-American female to gain a medical patent for her invention of the Laserphaco Probe used for cataract treatment. Her device was a trailblazing invention that was able to restore vision to individuals who had gone more than three decades without sight.
Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by majority thinking. Remember that the limits of science are not the limits of imagination.
Even if you don’t have children, you are probably familiar with the disposable diaper. The brand Pampers was invented by Marion Donovan, who later sold the rights, allowing the purchaser to create the well-known brand a decade later. She also invented the first water resilient diaper cover prior to the cloth diaper, which helped prevent cloth diapers from making a mess. Donovan was turned down initially for both inventions, but she forged ahead and her patents for her inventions eventually tallied up to 20 throughout her lifetime.
I went to all the big names that you could think of and they said, ‘we don’t need it- no woman has asked us for that…’ so I went into manufacturing myself.
This inventor is one we should all be thankful for. Caresse Crosby was the first to patent the modern bra. The bra was invented out of frustration when Crosby could not get into a dress without trouble with her whale-boned corset cover. The bra she invented on the fly at a debutante ball became a hit among the women who attended. Crosby knew she could make a business out of this item after receiving such praise and awe at her quick fix. So, she created a design and patented it!
I can’t say that the brassiere will ever take as great a place in history as the steamboat, but I did invent it.
Ruth Graves Wakefield
This inventor created another item the world is truly grateful for – the chocolate chip cookie! The story goes that Wakefield was attempting a new cookie invention by making them using Baker’s chocolate pieces, which she assumed would melt forming a chocolate cookie. However, there was no Baker’s available. All she had was a Nestle semisweet bar, which she chopped up with an ice pick because she didn’t have time to wait for it to melt. The pieces of chocolate did not melt. Instead, they stayed intact once added to the cookie dough and baked. The result was the amazing chocolate chip cookie we all know and love.
We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different.
Patsy O’Connell Sherman
Some of the best inventions do seem to happen by accident. That’s just part of what makes Sherman’s invention so amazing. Sherman was creating a product that would protect materials from deteriorating from aircraft jet fuels. Instead, a lab technician spilled the contents of Sherman’s invention on her shoe. Later, she realized that the shoes had gotten scuffed up and dirty everywhere but where the spill occurred. Thus, Scotchgard was invented to prevent dirt, oil, and water from fabrics. Sherman was not satisfied with this one invention, she went on to create 16 different inventions, receiving patents for all.
Anyone can become an inventor as long as they keep an open and inquiring mind and never overlook the possible significance of an accident or apparent failure.
Gertrude B. Elion
A pharmacologist and biochemist, Elion was a part of inventing some of the most advanced drugs of her time, including AZT, the drug to help prevent and treat AIDS. Elion was responsible for many groundbreaking drugs such as azathioprine, the first immunosuppressant drug used for organ transplants, acyclovir, the first antiviral drug which treats herpes, purinethol, the first treatment for leukemia, allopurinol, used for gout, pyrimethamine, used for malaria, and many more. She was a co-winner of a Nobel Prize for her drug innovations.
Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you can’t do it. In my day, I was told women didn’t go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn’t.
If you haven’t heard of Ruth Handler, you have surely heard of the toy company Mattel, Inc. and its popular Barbie doll. After Handler invented the Barbie doll, it was not popular initially. Some believed it would not be successful, as parents would not buy a voluptuous adult doll. However, after using commercial advertisements to present the doll to the world, Barbie skyrocketed to success across the country. Barbie has changed and evolved over the years. You can now find Barbies that are in every shape and size with various styles. Hopefully, Handler’s idea for what the Barbie represents still holds true to many of the girls who play with her today.
My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman had choices.
Bessie Blount Griffin
Griffin was a compassionate woman who aided many wounded soldiers during WWII. After seeing so many wounded and unable to fend for themselves, she invented a device that helped amputees feed themselves. Essentially, the person could bite down on a tube that would dispense a mouthful of food into the person’s mouth. The invention was denied in America, but the French government purchased her invention and used it to help wounded soldiers eat on their own.
If you can do it, do it. If you can achieve it, achieve it.
Amanda Theodosia Jones
This inventor is the reason for the frustration we all feel when we can’t open a jar. Amanda Theodosia Jones invented the vacuum seal. The seal was created for canned goods that were dry, wet, liquid, or dehydrated. She founded a canning company that she insisted be run by women and only women. Jones was a headstrong and intelligent woman whose inventions tallied up to 5, each receiving patents.
This is a woman’s industry. No man will vote our stock, transact our business, pronounce on women’s wages, supervise our factories. Give me whatever work is suitable but keep the governing power.
This inventor is considered to be one of the major inventors of our time. Greiner initially invented a product that stored several pieces of jewelry in a plastic organizer with sliding rods. Since then, Greiner has well over 600 products and is now an investor on the TV show Shark Tank, where she invests in others who have groundbreaking creations. Other inventions by Greiner include a cosmetic organizer, a snow globe that produces a fragrant smell, a closet organizer, and much more.
The big thing for me is, I never think about myself as a female in business. I’m a person in business.
Mangano is a very successful inventor with over 100 patents for her inventions. Her inventions include the Miracle Mop that wrings itself hands-free, non-slip hangers that also save closet space, luggage with many organizational features, and many more. Mangano’s life was loosely portrayed in a movie entitled, Joy, which starred Jennifer Lawrence. She is still going strong and believes her inventions are successful because she figures out the things that the masses can use, not things subjective to only a few.
All you need is one person to say yes to an idea.
Gabe was the inventor of the not so infamous self-cleaning house. Sadly, Gabe and her smart home were not well-known until after her death. Her self-cleaning home has features such as a china cabinet that is also a dishwasher, a washer and dryer system that practically runs and prepares itself, and a cleaning sprinkler in the ceiling that would spray down the room to clean it and then drain out through well-placed drains in the floor. There is much more to Gabe’s self-cleaning home – because it is the first pass at a smart home that the world had ever seen.
Housework is a thankless, unending job. It’s a nerve-twangling bore. Who wants it? Nobody!
Kurup noticed the availability of clean water was extremely lacking in India. Her idea? To create a water filtration system that would remove contaminants using solar power. This invention was created by Kurup when she was just 14-years-old. She has received many awards and honors, including Forbes’ “30 under 30: Energy” award, the United States President’s Environmental Award, the 2015 Google Science Fair National Geographic Explorer Award, and many more. Kurup is very passionate about clean water resources and continues to be an advocate for clean water and the global water crisis.
Water isn’t just the universal solvent. Water is a universal human right.
Haberman is the inventor of the very first non-spill cup for children called the Anyway Cup. This invention came after her first creation, the Haberman cup, which is used to allow children with the Stickler Syndrome (a disease which causes feeding problems due to oral growth problems) to drink. Haberman was frustrated when she couldn’t find products to feed her newborn daughter who was born with the condition and set out to find a solution – and she did. Haberman has gone on to invent many products for infants and young children. She says her success is due to finding gaps in the market to fulfill a need, rather than creating a product and then hoping others find a need for it.
I didn’t suddenly think one day, oh, I’ll become an inventor. It was a necessity thing. The driving force wasn’t to create a successful product or to make money. It was because something needed to be done and nobody else was doing anything about it. The energy came from anger.
As a computer scientist and Navy admiral, Hopper was already successful in her life. However, her abilities were too advanced to stop there. Hopper was a pioneer in the world of computer programming and invented one of the first translators for computers that allowed one language to be translated into another. Essentially, Hopper taught computers how to talk back when people thought all computers could do was math. Her programs are still used to this day. She is also credited for creating the term “bug” for computer related problems.
If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
Bette Nesmith Graham
Are you a proud of owner of the handy product Wite-Out? For those of us who often make mistakes and readily have our wonderful liquid paper available, we have Bette Graham to thank. While painting store windows, Bette realized that when she messed up, she painted over the mistake. But, at the time, when a mistake was made with typewriters, one would have to start all over with a new page. Thus, liquid paper was invented. Bette initially named her invention, Mistake-Out, but regardless of the name, the product is a true gem for the regular office worker.
I didn’t have a fellow at the time, so I had to do it all myself. I had to … appreciate that as a woman, I was strong, complete, adequate.
Do you have your own innovative ideas? Don’t give up or be discouraged if you hear a “no.” Don’t think that your invention can’t be the next big thing? You can be the next person to find your name in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. You can be the person that creates the next product that satisfies the needs of the masses. If you are passionate and believe in yourself and your product, you can make it happen! Get out there and start creating!
Featured image credit: The New Yorker