8 Household Items Invented by Women
It's hard to imagine what our homes would look like without these everyday items invented by women.
Inventor: Josephine Cochrane
“If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I’ll do it myself.”
Josephine Cochrane reportedly spoke those words in 1886. At the end of that year, she received a patent for the world’s first practical dishwasher. While several other inventors offered earlier dishwashing designs, Cochrane’s dishwasher was the first to clean with water pressure instead of scrubbers.
The Home Security System
Inventor: Marie Van Brittan Brown
It has been said many times that necessity is the mother of invention. That was definitely the case with Marie Van Brittan Brown, who in 1966 designed the first home security system to counter high crime rates and slow response times from police in her Queens, N.Y. neighborhood.
Brown’s invention contained many elements still used in modern home security including peepholes, cameras, monitors, alarm buttons and two-way microphones. Her design is also credited with popularizing closed-circuit televisions in security systems.
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The Landlord’s Game
Inventor: Elizabeth Magie
In 1903, game designer, writer and feminist Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie applied for a patent on a board game where players competed for wealth, land and industries.
Sound familiar? It should. Three decades later, Parker Brothers introduced a suspiciously similar board game called Monopoly, which designer Charles Darrow claimed was entirely his idea. While Magie did speak out at the time, it wasn’t until after her death in 1948 that she received proper credit for one of the most popular board games in history.
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The Ice Cream Maker
Inventor: Nancy Johnson
At first, making ice cream was a such long, intensive process that the frozen concoction was mainly reserved for the upper levels of society. That all changed with Nancy Johnson and her hand-crank ice cream churn invention, which made it much simpler and more cost-effective to produce quality ice cream.
By eliminating the labour needed to produce the formerly upper-class dessert, Nancy Johnson brought ice cream to the masses and became a hero in the eyes of many.
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The Ironing Board
Inventor: Sarah Boone
Sarah Boone was born to enslaved parents in Craven County, N.C. in 1832. After spending her youth in the pre-Civil War South, Boone earned her freedom and relocated to New Haven, Conn. through networks tied to the Underground Railroad.
A dressmaker, Boone applied for a patent for a “cheap, simple, convenient and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.” Her ironing board design was a major improvement over past versions because it fit the seams of women’s clothing at the time, and was easy to flip so that each side of the garment could be ironed.
Boone’s patent was approved in 1892, making her one of the first African-American women to be awarded a patent by the U.S. government.
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The Retractable Dog Leash
Inventor: Mary A. Delaney
Little is known about Mary A. Delaney, other than she was awarded a patent for her retractable dog leash on May 12, 1908. “The objects of the present invention are to obviate and overcome all these difficulties and annoyances due to the usual form of leash, and prevent the leash from becoming tangled as the dog runs about,” Delaney wrote in the patent application.
Clearly, she was onto something. More than a century later, retractable dog leashes are still widely sold.
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The Disposable Coffee Filter
Inventor: Mellita Bentz
If you’re a coffee drinker. you owe a lot to Melitta Bentz, even if you’ve never heard that name before. Bentz was a German housewife-turned-entrepreneur who in the early 1900s had an idea for a better coffee filter made from paper. It quickly turned into a massively successful family business.
By the time of her death in 1950, disposable paper coffee filters had become tremendously popular and Bentz’s company, Bentz & Sohn was worth 4.7 million deutsche marks. Bentz remained active in the company throughout her life as an advocate for her employees, fighting to ensure they had Christmas bonuses, increased vacation time and manageable work weeks.
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The Electric Refrigerator
Inventor: Florence Parpart
For most of human history, the only way to keep food cold was to surround it with ice. Florence Parpart had a better idea. Her proposed design for an ice-free icebox used an electrical system to circulate cold water through the appliance, delivering more even and efficient cooling.
Parpart and her husband applied for a patent in 1913. Over the next 100 years, that product evolved into the modern smart refrigerator.
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