International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8th every year since 1909. This special holiday celebrates women from all walks of life and the impact which women have on their families, society, and the world. Women inventors have made a massive impact on science and innovation and their efforts deserve endless recognition. Sometimes, it’s easy to remember the woman’s contributions to society without memorializing her persona and her other accomplishments. Thank you, ladies, for your big minds and even bigger hearts.
Stephanie Kwolek grew up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania and had a passion for science early in life which led her to pursue a degree in chemistry from prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. After taking a research job after graduation, she was one of the first women research chemists. While researching a liquid crystalline polymer solution, she discovered Kevlar, a synthetic material which is five times as strong as steel. Kevlar is used in bulletproof vests, skis, helmets, suspension bridge cables, and many other safety items. She was the recipient of 17 United States patents and received the Kilby Award, the National Medal of Technology, and the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ruth Wakefield always had a taste for cooking and baking. She went to Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924 and became a dietician and food lecturer. She and her husband purchased and managed a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn, wherein she was the head cook responsible for guests’ meals. In 1930, she accidentally invented chocolate chip cookies when she substituted Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate for baker’s chocolate. The chocolate did not melt and absorb, but created what we know today as a Toll House chocolate chip cookie, one of the most popular cookies in America.
Before home security systems were popular, Queens, New York inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown had the idea to use a closed-circuit television system as a security system. Her system used a set of 4 peep holes and a camera which would slide up and down to look out each peep hole. This connected to a television through which you could see and hear the person at the door. She invented her home security system in 1966, years before more technologically advanced security systems would be created. She received a patent for her invention and is regarded as the first in a long string of home-security inventions which continue to flood the market today.
Mary Anderson was a woman of many talents. She was a real estate developer, rancher, wine maker, and inventor. During a visit to New York City, she was riding in a trolley car and noticed the falling sleet made it difficult for the driver to see. Upon returning to her Alabama home, she helped to create a prototype for a hand-operated windshield clearing device. A local company produced a working model and in 1903, she was granted a patent for her invention.
Telecommunications Research – Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson
A budding interest for science and math started Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson down the path to greatness. She graduated high school as valedictorian and attended college at MIT as the only African American student to study theoretical physics. After getting her Ph. D. from MIT (and being the first black woman to do so), she conducted research in physics labs across the United States and Europe. She used her knowledge of physics to discover advances in telecommunications research while working at Bell Laboratories. Her research enabled others to invent the touch tone telephone, fiber optic cables, caller ID, and more. She is currently the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has received numerous prestigious awards.
This is just the beginning of a list of women inventors and innovators who have made a positive impact on society. These women’s actions inspire others around the world to use their brains, ingenuity, hard work, and perseverance to create more innovative products. Even if you’re not an inventor, these women can motivate you to use your own gifts to improve the world around you. Happy International Women’s Day!
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