The airplane muffler, the dishwasher, Monopoly and so much more, have one thing in common – they were all invented by a woman. There are many inventions that we use every day that have been created by women.
“With August being the month of celebrating women in South Africa, let’s bring to the forefront the inventions that make our lives a little easier on a daily basis, designed and created by women,” says Sarah Webb, Personal Touch brand manager.
We can all agree that driving in the rain would be near impossible if it weren’t for windscreen wipers. In 1903, Mary Anderson was granted her first patent for an automatic car window cleaning device, which we all know now as windscreen wipers. Anderson took a trip to New York during the winter and noticed the driver of the streetcar kept having to stick his head out of the window so that he could see during a snowfall. He would often stop the car to wipe the windscreen and then resume driving. It was from this encounter that Anderson had the idea for windscreen wipers. “Unfortunately, her idea was rejected by many corporations, and after 17 years her patent was up. Anderson removed herself from her idea, and other corporations had access to it especially with the advancement of automobiles,” says Webb.
Dr Shirley Jackson
Dr Shirley Jackson is a theoretical physicist and a renowned inventor. Her ground-breaking research and work in the telecommunications field has allowed others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fibre optic cable, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. “Jackson paved the way for many in the telecommunications industry to make great advancements throughout the years, and her research continues to the basis of many ideas to come,” says Katlego Makete, brand manager of Chemico and Organico. Being interested in science and mathematics from a young age, Jackson pursued this passion to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and became the first African American women to obtain a Ph.D from MIT.
The inventor of the most precious item in the kitchen, the dishwasher. Cochrane did not set out to invent the dishwasher because she was tired of the manual job of washing the dishes, but rather because she was tired of her fine china being chipped. She came up with the idea of the dishwasher, and when her husband died leaving her in debt, was determined to make it work. She measured the dishes to create a dishrack that would hold all dirty dishes in place, such as plates, cups saucers etc. The design used a wheel powered by a motor, and the dishes on the dishrack were covered in soapy water. In 1886 she patented her design, and started off making them for her friends, and advertising publications. She established the Cochran’s Crescent Washing Machine Company and began selling them to restaurants and hotels.
Ruth Graves Wakefield
“Almost everyone enjoys a choc-chip cookie, and we should all be saying thanks to Ruth Graves Wakefield,” says Makete. Ruth Wakefield was an accomplished cook, who went from being a Home Economics teacher to owning her own restaurant, Toll House, which became well-known for its lobster dinners and Mrs Wakefield’s cookies for dessert. Wakefield accidentally created choc-chip cookies, when she ran out of a chocolate ingredient for one of her desserts. She subsidised this chocolate with a Nestle chocolate bar, cutting it up into small pieces. Thinking that the chocolate would melt into the batter, she was surprised when the chips came out hot and soft, making the cookies delicious. The cookies became the most sort after item on the menu, and soon Nestle started selling pre-packaged chocolate chips.
“Paying tribute to women should not only be reserved for one day, but should occur throughout the year,” says Makete. “The women in our lives might not all be world renowned inventors, but their love, patience, help, passion and hard work should be celebrated and appreciated at all times. They are the ones who have made us who we are.”