How many inventions by women can you think of?
I asked myself this question and came up with less than five. That’s a pretty poor performance on my part, even though I’ve been blogging about strong women and their accomplishments for almost two years.
Why is it so hard? It’s not because women haven’t invented cool stuff. Women invented everyday things like the dishwasher and windshield wipers and a machine that made paper bags, which is why we use paper bags so much now.
Mary Harrell-Sesniak, a genealogist, wrote about the difficulty of researching female inventors. It reminded me of writing about women in my own books on state history. I knew that women contributed to the exploration and settlement of the West, yet I had to work extra hard to find their contributions.
Harrell-Sesniak found these research techniques helped:
- Find then-contemporaneous newspaper articles that mention a woman inventor;
- Search for appropriate keywords, like the archaic word “inventress;”
- Locate obituaries that mention inventions by women;
- Research reports about patents; and
- Search Google Patents.
That’s a lot of work. But why is knowing about women inventors so important?
One of the girls in the following video said it best: It gives her the idea that she could invent something and change the world.
Shouldn’t all of us be working on that, not just half of us?
The photo is of Hedy Lamarr, a movie star, who also co-invented “spread spectrum technology,” which manipulated radio frequencies so that classified messages could be transmitted during World War II.