Women have always been inventive, even if we don’t always hear about it.  Here are 7 things you use or encounter every single day, and probably didn’t know that a woman invented or co-invented it!

Woven Clothing

Book Cover: Women's Work the first 20,000 years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Elizabeth Wayland Barber, he author of “Women’s Work, the First 20,000 Years,” used archeological evidence to show that women were the weavers in ancient times.  She points out that women, as the mothers, once humans became less nomadic, needed work that was compatible with childcare.  At various points in the ancient world, woven linen was a symbol of wealth and was a valuable trade good.

Mary Anderson, Windshield Wipers

Invented windshield wipers for trolley cars, today’s windshield wipers bear a striking resemblance to hers. Awarded a patent in 1903. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.  Read our blog post about her to learn more.

Mary Anderson: Inventor of Windshield Wipers

Marie Van Brittan Brown, in an undated photograph. Black and white headshot.

Marie Van Brittan Brown, in an undated photograph.

Marie Van Brittan Brown – CCT Security Systems

Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse who sometimes worked the late shift.  When she was home alone and the doorbell rang, she wanted to know who was at the door without opening it.  She worked with her husband Albert to create a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system so that she could see who was at the door without opening it. They were awarded a patent in 1969 and more recent patents for home security systems refer to their patent!

Stephanie Kwolek, Kevlar

Chemist who invented Kevlar, the bulletproof material used in bulletproof vests and helmets, as well as shoes, baseball bats and heat resistant gloves for home cooking and space suits. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1996.

She said of her invention, “I don’t think there’s anything like saving someone’s life to bring you satisfaction and happiness.”

Stephanie Kwolek: Inventor of Bulletproof Polymer, Kevlar

Hedy Lamarr, Technology Underlying WiFi

A famous actress, she wanted to help the US win the war in WW II and made an insight about player piano rolls that led her to work with her friend George Antheil to invent the idea of frequency hopping, that would help torpedoes hit their targets. While this technology wasn’t completed in time to help with WWII, it is the underlying concept that is used in fax machines, cell phones and wifi. Her movie studio made her keep her involvement a secret, and she did for years, until she was in her 80s!  Read our blog post about her to learn more.

Hedy Lamarr and Frequency Hopping

 Josephine Cochrane, Dishwasher

Invented the first practical automatic dishwasher, awarded a patent in 1886. Her invention also won awards when it was displayed at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago. While she wanted it to go into homes, at first her invention was so large and expensive that only hotels and restaurants could afford it.

Josephine Cochrane, Inventor of the Dishwasher!

Margaret E. Knight, machine that folds flat bottomed paper bags

Began inventing at the age of 12, awarded a patent in 1871 for the machine that folds flat-bottom paper bags, machines of today that do the same thing are based on her inventions! She also invented an engine, machines that cut out shoes soles and more.

“I was always making things for my brothers; did they want any thing in the line of playthings, they always said, “Mattie will make them for us.” I was famous for my kites; my sleds were the envy and admiration of all the boys in town.”   ~Margaret Knight

“Mattie will make them for us!” Great woman inventor starts at 12 with safety device: Margaret Knight

Elaine Luther is the blogger and podcast co-host for Being Bold. As a kid, Elaine’s mom gave her the book “Girls are People Too,” sparking her interest in women’s rights and the untold stories of women. She is a writer and artist whose work has been published in national magazines and online. Her art has been shown in galleries nationwide and libraries across Chicagoland.


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