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9 Groundbreaking Inventions by Women

February 25, 2021 in History

By Becky Little

Women inventors are behind a wide range of key innovations, from Kevlar to dishwashers to better life rafts.

Female inventors have played a large role in U.S. history, but haven’t always received credit for their work. Besides the fact that their contributions have sometimes been downplayed over overlooked, women—particularly women of color—have historically had fewer resources to apply for U.S. patents and market their inventions.

Not all of the female inventors on this list received attention for their work in their lifetime, or were able to market their inventions. But all of them contributed innovations that helped advance technology in their respective fields.

Female inventors have played a large role in U.S. history, while not always receiving credit for their work. Among the many inventions by women innovators is the dishwasher, which was patented in 1886 by a wealthy socialite, Josephine G. Cochran, of Shelbyville, Illinois, who sought a way to wash her fine china.

View the 9 images of this gallery on the original article

1. Life Raft

In the early 1880s, when a new wave of European immigrants were sailing to the United States, a Philadelphia inventor named Maria E. Beasley designed an improved life raft. Unlike the flat life rafts of the 1870s, Beasley’s raft had guard rails to help keep people inside during emergencies when they had to abandon ship.

Beasley patented her first life raft design in 1880 in both the United States and Great Britain, and received a second U.S. patent for an updated version of the raft in 1882. In addition to the life raft, she also invented a foot warmer, a stream generator and a barrel-hooping machine, receiving a total of 15 U.S. patents and at least two in Great Britain during her life.

2. Fold-Out Bed

In 1885, a Chicago inventor and furniture store owner named Sarah E. Goode received a patent for her “Cabinet-Bed.” The new piece of furniture was a desk that folded out into a bed, allowing the user to save space in a tiny apartment.

Goode’s invention predated the 20th century’s pull-down Murphy beds and pull-out sofas. With her Cabinet-Bed, Goode—who was born into slavery and won her freedom after the Civil War—became one of the first Black women to patent and invention with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

READ MORE: 8 Black Inventors Who Made Daily Life Easier

3. Dishwasher

Josephine G. Cochran …read more


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