This is an excerpt of The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, as part of Neatorama's review (and giveaway contest) for the book.
Even though it’s said that "necessity is the mother of invention," women's contribution to inventing and science have been, in the past, often overlooked. It's likely women have been using their creativity and intelligence to engineer new ideas and products since the beginning of human experience, but nobody really kept track of such things until a few years ago. Below we've assembled some of our favorite daring women inventors, scientists, and doctors - from Nobel Prize winners to crafters of practical devices, from women who revolutionized the way diapers were changed to women whose revolutionary ideas changed the world.
Sybilla Masters became the first American women inventor in recorded history, though in accordance with the laws of the time, her patent for "Cleansing Curing and Refining of Indian Corn Growing in the Plantations" was issued in her husband Thomas' name by the British courts. Her husband was issued a second patent for another of her inventions, entitled "Working and Weaving in a New Method, Palmetta Chip and Straw for Hats and Bonnets and other Improvements of that Ware."
Martha Knight patents a machine to produce flat-bottomed paper bags. She also becomes the first woman in the United States to fight and win a patent suit, when she defended her patent against a man who had stolen her design and filed for his own patent on it. He claimed a woman couldn't possibly have the mechanical knowledge needed to invent such a complex machine, but Knight was able to back up her claim. After her success, she went on to develop and patent several other machines, including rotary machines and automatic tools.
Sarah E. Goode, born a slave in 1850, obtains the first patent by an African American woman inventor for her folding cabinet bed, a space-saver that when folded up could be used as a desk, complete with compartments for stationery and writing supplies.
Josephine Garis Cochran, of Shelbyville, Illinois, invents the first working automatic dishwasher. Her invention was first shown at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois, and eventually went on to become associated with the KitchenAid company.
Mary Anderson, of Alabama, invents the windshield wiper. Patented in 1905, windshield wipers became standard equipment on cars a decade later.
Scientist Marie Curie is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her discovery of the radioactive elements radium and polonium. She is awarded the Nobel Price for Chemistry in 1911, making her the first person to win two Nobel prizes.
Mary Phelps Jacob invents the modern bra. She was inspired to fashion a comfortable upper-body undergarment after becoming fed up with restrictive corsets. Her brassiere, made from two silk handkerchiefs and a ribbon, became so popular that after she patented the invention, she went on to sell it to the Warner Corset Company.
The actress Hedy Lamarr invents (along with George Anthiel) a "Secret Communications System" to help combat the Nazi in World War II.
Marion Donovan invents the disposable diaper. When established manufacturers show little interest in this invention, she starts her own company, Donovan Enterprises, which she sells along with her diaper patent to Keko Corporation in 1951 for one million dollars.
Bette Nesmith invents Liquid Paper, a quick-drying white liquid painted onto paper to correct mistakes. She was a secretary in Texas when she hit upon her invention, which became so successful it grew into the Liquid Paper Company. (Fun fact: Her son, Michael Nesmith, grew up to be a member of the 1960s rock group the Monkees.)
Mathematician and U.S. naval officer Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper invents the computer compiler, which revolutionized computer programming. She and her team also developed the first user-friendly business computer programming language, COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language).
Chemist Stephanie Louise Kwolek invents Kevlar, a polymer fiber that is five times stronger than the same weight of steel and is now used in bulletproof vests, helmets, trampolines, tennis rackets, tires, and many other common objects.
Barbara McClintock, an American scientist and cytogeneticist, becomes the first woman to win, unshared, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for her discovery of a genetic mechanism called transposition.
Frances Gabe invents the self-cleaning house. Each room of the house has a 10-inch square "Cleaning/ Drying/ Heating/ Cooling" device on the ceiling. At the push of a button, the cleaning unit sends a powerful spray of soapy water around the room and then rinses and blow-dries everything. Each room has a sloped floor to aid the water drainage, and all valuable objects and other things that should not get wet are stored under glass. The house, in the woods of Oregon, also has self-cleaning sinks, bathtubs, and toilets; a cupboard that doubles as a dishwasher; and closets that can clean and dry the clothes hung inside them.
Ellen Ochoa becomes the first Hispanic female astronaut in space. The veteran of three space flights, who has logged over 719 hours in space, is also an electrical engineer with patents on high-tech optical recognition systems and optical systems for spacecraft automation.