Exhibit Ensures US Women Inventors Leave Their Mark on Society

Women inventors have created extraordinary innovations, but most haven’t gotten the praise they deserve, according to Joyce Bedi, curator of “Inventive Minds: Women Inventors,” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington. The museum is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The exhibit coincides with Women’s History Month in the United States, in March, which highlights the accomplishments of American women, including inventors. Women inventors have always had the “courage, persistence and resilience” to succeed said Rini Paiva, an executive vice president at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in North Canton, Ohio. So far, 45 women have been inducted into the museum. Bedi points out that women inventors historically experienced economic and social barriers that made it difficult for them to patent their creations. To avoid bias, some of them used their initials or patented under a company or man’s name.   But that slowly began to change after a 1790 patent act enabled “any person or persons” to petition for protection of their original methods and designs. That made it easier for Mary Kies to become the first American woman to receive a patent in 1809 for a new technique of weaving straw with silk or thread to make hats.Margaret Knight’s paper bag machine at the Smithsonian.Later in the 19th century, Margaret Knight bagged a vital patent for a machine that cut, folded and glued flat-bottomed paper bags, which previously had been tediously put together by hand. “Knight had worked in factories, and so she became familiar with how machines worked,” Bedi told VOA. A few years later, inventor and entrepreneur Maria Beasley patented an idea to help save people’s lives — a better life raft with guard rails. Among Beasley’s other innovations was a steam generator, foot warmer and barrel hooping machine.   In the early 20th century, physicist and chemist Katharine Burr Blodgett was known for her contributions to industrial chemistry. Blodgett’s most famous invention was an anti-reflective coating, used today on items such as glasses, microscopes, computer screens.Amy Prieto holds a prototype of the battery she invented, Prieto battery.Another contemporary scientist, Theresa Dankovich, invented a type of water filter paper that kills almost 100% of waterborne bacteria and viruses. In 2016, she founded Folia Water, a company that markets the filter as part of an affordable and easy-to-use system. Developed for use in developing countries, Dankovich explained the system works like a tech-tech coffee filter, where the paper is inserted into a funnel “that fits into containers people use every day.”   As an inventor, Prieto said she hoped to make a difference. “I wanted to be creative and also benefit humanity at the same time,” Prieto said. “As more women with technical backgrounds start their own companies, I think we’re going to see a lot more women inventors.” 

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