Ever wonder, what have women invented?
Like so many other areas of society, the world of patents is one that has been historically male-dominated. In 2018, only 10% of patents were inventions made by women.
This figure led researchers to conclude that when it comes to applying for patents, “women inventors must pass greater degrees of scrutiny… but conditional upon being granted, the average patent issued to women is actually of superior quality than the average patent issued to men.” This article explores five of the most valuable, useful, and best inventions by women.
But first, a bit of explanation…
What is a patent?
There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant. In general terms, says JD Houvener, Patent Attorney with Bold Patents: a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a “design patent” protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171). Plant patents cover- you guessed it! – plants.
Utility patents protect the functionality of any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, a composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement to existing objects. Utility patents grant a federal right of exclusive use over the invention for up to twenty years.
Design patents cover inventions, objects, and creations with protectable aesthetic designs. A protectable design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to, the invention.
Plant patents are granted to inventors who have created or discovered an asexually reproduced, distinct and new variety of plant.
Alright, now let’s take a look at some awesome inventions by women.
Top Five Things Invented By Women
5. Square-bottomed brown paper bag, invented by Margaret Knight
In 1870, Margaret Knight realized the shortcomings in paper bags at the time- they were unable to carry several items at once. Realizing a way to fix this, she created a method that could cut, fold and glue square bottoms to the existing paper bag prototype.
Shortly before applying for a patent over this machine, she discovered that her design had been stolen by a man named Charles Annan. Annan had seen her machine and claimed that “there was no way that a woman could have developed such a complex machine.”
To prove him wrong and obtain the patent that was rightfully hers, Knight filed a patent interference suit against Annan. She used her notes and sketches to demonstrate the fact that she created the machine, and was granted the patent in 1871.
4. Dishwasher, invented by Josephine Cochrane
Cochrane found the task of hand-washing dishes burdensome and unnecessary, thinking that there must be a better way. Out of this frustration, she sought out to come up with the better way, believing there would be a real consumer need for this invention.
She measured her dishes and constructed wire compartments to fit plates, cups, and saucers inside; then, she placed these inside a wheel that laid flat within a copper boiler. The wheel turned, powered by a motor, and soapy water would squirt up over the dishes to clean them.
She received a patent for this machinery in 1886.
3. Kevlar, invented by Stephanie Kwolek
In 1965, Brilliant chemist Stephanie Kwolek created the first of an eventual variety of synthetic fibers, whose exceptional strength and stiffness gives it 200+ useful applications.
While you may not know exactly what Kevlar is, chances are you’ve used it at some point in your life. Thanks to Stepahnie, you can find this material in protective vests, boats, airplanes, ropes, cables, and much more.
Read more here: Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of Kevlar
2. Stem Cell Isolation, invented by Ann Tsukamoto
A bone marrow transplant can be used to replace the damaged immune system in a person with blood cancer. This operation has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and has led to greater scientific innovation. Regarding her discovery, Ann famously said: “”It wasn’t easy.”
1. Ice Cream Maker, invented by Nancy Johnson
In 1843, New Yorker Nancy M. Johnson applied for a patent for the hand-cranked ice cream machine. The early prototype of her machine functioned using a movable crank and a paddle to churn the mixture around.
Nancy’s invention shifted the trend of ice-cream making towards commercial sale rather than homemade craft. Now, every time you go to the store for a pint of your favorite, you’ll have Nancy to thank.
These inventions only scratch the surface of what women have created, and are a clear indication of what women are capable of. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how the pace of innovation keeps with the pace of gender equality.
Until then, women- keep on innovating! Like Ann Tsukamoto said, it isn’t easy, but it is well worth it when what you create changes the world.
What Else Have Women Invented?
Check out these other awesome inventions by women:
- Madam C. J. Walker, self-made millionaire invented the first beauty products designed specifically for black women
- Margaret Hamilton, the Woman Behind the Moon Landing invented the software that made the moon landing possible
- Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, pioneering computer programmer was highly influential on the development of one of the first programming languages called COBOL
- Fe del Mundo, first female student at Harvard Medical School is credited with studies that led to the invention of an improved incubator and a jaundice relieving device
- Sarah Guppy, Eclectic English Inventor invented a ton of useful gadgets
- Katharine McCormick, biologist & millionaire philanthropist was responsible for funding the reseaech that discovered the birth control pill
Carly Klein is a law student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. A graduate from Boston University with a B.A. in Political Science & Philosophy, she has experience in marketing, communications, and sales. She is a Los Angeles native and seeks to pursue a career in IP & Business Litigation.