8 Female Inventors and Businesswomen to Celebrate for Women’s History Month
So often during Women’s History Month, we end up focusing on the same topics, celebrating the same handful of people, and saying the same things over… and over… and over again. With the wealth of diverse, intelligent, radical women in the world, this does not have to be the case!
Our everyday lives are abundant with the influence and inventions of powerful women. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Bette Nesmith Graham: Liquid Paper
Liquid paper might not be quite as important in the digital age, but secretaries of yore will tell you how many times it was a life saver! What many of us don’t realize it that liquid paper was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, a typist who saw a need for a better way to correct our mistakes instead of starting over. She turned her simple invention into a large company with many employees that she eventually sold to Gillette. The lesson? There is money to be made in solving seemingly small problems!
Madame Clicquot Ponsardin: Veuve Clicquot
Cheers to Madame Clicquot, who is the primary reason that we have Veuve Clicquot today! This “Grand Dame of Champagne” took over her husband’s wine business when he passed away. She was only 27 at the time! It was under her leadership that the company developed champagne, and the company that still bears her nickname has now set up an award for female owners or managers of companies. The lesson? Make the most of the opportunities that fall into your lap!
Hedy Lamarr: WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS
Hedy Lamarr is well-known as a beautiful actress during the heyday of Hollywood, but did you know that she was also an incredibly intelligent woman who helped fight Nazis in World War II? Lamarr participated in the development of technologies that helped Allied forces communicate, and those technologies are the foundations of the WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS that we rely on today. When she dated eccentric businessman Howard Hughes, he put a team of scientists at her disposal to support her “tinkering,” and Hedy Lamarr is now in the American National Inventors Hall of Fame. The lesson? It’s perfectly acceptable to use your status to open doors for your creative pursuits!
Marie Van Brittan Brown: Home Security System
You have a woman to thank for the closed-circuit TV system that helps to keep your home secure! Marie, a nurse, was tired of having to answer the door to find out who was standing on her stoop. So, along with her husband, this Jamaican woman created the system that is the foundation of our modern home security systems. It incorporated cameras, an alarm button, and a remote way to unlock the door if a friend or expected visitor was waiting to be let in. This is essentially the same technology that is used today (although a bit shrunken and streamlined). The lesson? Your job title doesn’t limit what you can work on!
Mary Anderson: Windshield Wipers
If you enjoy seeing the road while driving in the rain, you’ve got Mary Anderson to thank. She patented her car window cleaning device in 1903 — before so many people even had vehicles! We’re sure the Canadian firm that rejected purchasing her invention by saying “we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale” regretted it later on when major car companies adopted her invention as the standard for their new automobiles. The lesson? Know your worth and ignore rejections that don’t see it!
Marion Donovan: Disposable Nappies
One for the parents! Where would we be without disposable nappies? Perhaps buried under mounds of cloth diapers to launder? Marion began by creating a waterproof nappy cover that was gentler, safer, and more convenient than similar products on the market at the time. She followed that up by creating a special type of paper that could be used for a disposable nappy, and the rest is history. She also earned an architecture degree and dozens more unrelated patents in her life. The lesson? If you’ve got the chops, it is perfectly acceptable to be a jack (or jill) of all trades.
Dr. Grace Murray Hopper: COBOL Language
Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a women who thrived as a computer scientist in some of the earliest days of the field, and she developed some of the foundational tools of computer programming and COBOL, one of the first computer programming languages. As one of the mothers of modern computer programming, she has received a plethora of honors and honorary degrees, which we believe are all well-deserved. The lesson? True innovators will be rewarded!
Nadia Khan: Organic Fruit Syrups
Nadia Khan has the classic entrepreneurial story. She saw a need for a product (i.e. she wanted to make strawberry milk for her children without feeding them disgusting high-fructose corn syrup), so she created it: “It all began with strawberry syrup, which I used to make at home so that my four kids could enjoy the sweetness of strawberry milk without consuming artificial additives and high fructose corn syrup. I would buy organic strawberries from the farmers market and boil them in a pot, loving how the fruity fragrance filled our home. Then I would pour the juice through a strainer, add organic sugar, and boil the mixture down again.” Her simple kitchen creation for her children has turned into a full-scale business which also supports orphans around the world. The lesson? The simple things mums do to care for their children have real value in the market!
Who else would you add to this list? Which women inspire you to be driven and committed to your business, invention, or purpose?
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