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Society of Women Engineers

SWE Celebrates Women Inventors

SWE celebrates women inventors in part two of our two-part series for Women’s History Month.

Published On: March 2016

SWE takes a look at women inventors in part two of our two-part series for Women’s History Month. In part one, we focused on women and engineering education.

The first woman to receive a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was Mary Dixon Kies. President James Madison signed her patent for a new technique of weaving straw with silk and thread to make hats on May 5, 1809.

Nancy Johnson’s ice cream maker won a patent in 1843.

Also in 1843, Ada Lovelace, often called the first computer programmer, published her translation of a French article on the Analytical Engine by an Italian engineer. She added her own notes that included a description of a sequence of operations for solving math problems, a computer algorithm.

Microsoft released a video for International Women’s Day 2016 highlighting how important it is for young girls to know about women inventors.

Margaret Knight held several patents, including one from 1879 for a machine that makes paper bags.

Mary Beasley held a patent for the life raft dated 1882.

Anne Connelly had an 1887 patent for the fire escape.

Margaret Wilcox invented the car heater and held a patent for it dated 1892.

In 1893, Josephine Cochrane presented her dishwasher at the World’s Fair and won an award for its design and durability.

Letitia Greer received a patent for the medical syringe dated 1899.

Mary Anderson’s 1903 patent for a window-cleaning device would eventually become the windshield wiper.

Elizabeth Magie held a patent dated 1903 for her Landlord’s Game, which later became Parker Brothers’ Monopoly. She actually designed it as a protest against the big monopolists of her time.

Florence Parpart Layman improved the street-sweeping machine and earned a patent in 1904. She won a second patent in 1914 for the modern refrigerator.

The Hollywood actress Heddy Lamar, whose real name was Markey Hedy Kiesler, was also an inventor and held a patent for wireless communication technology from 1942.

Maria Telkes held several patents for solar energy storage dating back to the 1940s. She helped build the first house powered entirely by solar energy.

In 1944, Grace Murray Hopper was one of the first computer programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Later, she helped create COBOL, one of the earliest computer languages.

In the 1960s, Stephanie Kwolek created Kevlar, which is used to make bulletproof vests.

In 1967, Yvonne Brill, a SWE member, invented a satellite propulsion system.

Marie Van Brittan Brown received a patent in 1969 for a security system using television cameras.

Shirley Jackson, a theoretical physicist who was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from MIT in 1973, is credited with conducting research while working at Bell Laboratories that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

Google is also celebrating International Women’s Day with a video.

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