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5 Women-Led Inventions We Bet You Didn’t Know About

Posted by YOURDOST in Inspiration, Society
March 8, 2017
Editor’s note: This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #WomensDay to start conversations on how we can achieve a gender equal society. If you have faced gender-based violence, sexism or misogyny, would like to propose policy reforms or write about what families, friends, workspaces and partners can do to ensure gender parity around them, write to us here.

Women have constituted nearly half the world’s populations for many centuries. While history celebrates its sons and their achievements, the daughters have also made many significant contributions to society which should be remembered.

However, while some of these inventions have been recognised, the others have been forgotten. However, there’s no denying the importance of each invention.

Here are the stories of five such inventions that impact our lives on a daily basis:

Mary Anderson – Windshield Wipers (1903)

It was a cold, snowy afternoon in New York in the winter of 1903. Mary Anderson saw drivers pull down their windows to push the snow off their windshields. She was convinced that this was an inconvenience and that there ought to be a better solution to this.

Therefore, she invented a mechanical arm with a rubber blade which would automatically push the precipitate off the windshield, without the driver ever having to put his/her hand out.

At first, the invention was highly criticised as most people thought it would be very distracting for the driver. But Mary Anderson’s windshield wiper stood the test of time and criticism and became a norm by 1916. It is widely used even today.

Windshield Wipers

Ruth Wakefield – Chocolate Chip Cookies (1938)

Ruth Wakefield and her husband were owners of a small roadside inn, the Tollside Inn, where she was in charge of providing meals and snacks for the guests. One day while making chocolate cookies, she ran out of cocoa powder and decided to replace it with an actual Nestle chocolate bar.

Lo and behold – the world’s first choco-chip cookie! The chocolate didn’t evenly spread across the biscuit and it formed lumps of concentrated chocolate within the biscuit. Her recipe was an instant hit. Nestle gave her a lifetime supply of chocolate. Choco-chip cookies are one of the world’s most loved snacks to this day.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Melitta Bentz – Coffee Filter (1908)

Melitta Bentz was sick and tired of having grounded coffee powder in her morning drink. Back then in pre World War I Germany, percolators and espresso machines were predominantly used. These produced a rough and bitter coffee.

Bentz tried filtering coffee with her son’s blotting paper and realised that the coffee from the coffee filter tasted less bitter. This invention was well-received and she decided to patent it and build a business around it. She worked with a tinsmith to mass produce a device based on her invention. That was the world’s first coffee filter.

Coffee Filter

Hedy Lamarr – Spread Spectrum Technology (1942)

Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian immigrant to America, a beauty icon and a film actor, was also a prodigious technologist. Along with George Anthiel, she was the co-inventor of the spread spectrum technology. This was a method of manipulating radio frequency to send messages, thereby creating a secret communication system.

While this was primarily done to counter-intercept sensitive information from the Nazis, Lamarr’s work on the spread spectrum technology led to the foundation of modern communication – cellular networks, fax machines and even WiFi.

A WiFi Modem

Stephanie Kwolek – Kevlar (1965)

Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist with DuPont. During the course of her 40-year long career at the company, she discovered one of the world’s most durable and strong substances – Kevlar. She was looking to make a lightweight polymer which could be used for car tyres to counter a foreseen shortage of petrol. In the process, she found a substance that was five times stronger than steel.

She later found out that the substance could be made much stronger by heating. Since then, Kevlar has been used in tyres, toys, mobile phones and bulletproof vests as well. Coincidentally, at the time of her passing in 2015, the one-millionth Kevlar-based bulletproof vest was sold.

Kevlar Vest

YourDOST celebrates the indomitable spirit of the #WomenOf2017. Read more amazing stories of courageous women here. If you or someone known to you has a story, share it with us!


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