Women Inventors

10 Women Inventors Who's Inventions Changed the World

The saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” holds true for several of the 10 notable women inventors we’ve presented in this article, but there are also some inventions that happened purely “by accident.” Enjoy these brief excerpts and if you want more info, links to other resources are provided.

1.       Mary Anderson – Inventor of the Windshield Wipers

We don’t even think about the windshield wipers in our vehicles, but without them driving would prove tricky in rain or snow. During a trip to New York, Alabama-born, Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers in had to open their windows to see out when it rained. Anderson invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle using a lever. This clever invention was not an instant hit – people were skeptical of this new window cleaner, but by 1916 they were standard in most vehicles.

NOTE: It was also a woman inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, who patented the automatic windshield wiper in 1917.

For more information about Mary Anderson visit,

Mary Anderson, Southern Belle

Lemelson-MIT Inventor of the Week: Mary Anderson

Famous Women Inventors – Mary Anderson


2.       Patricia Billings – Inventor of Geobond®

A relatively new invention, Geobond® was invented in the 1970’s by sculptor, Patricia Billings, who was simply looking for a way to prevent her sculptures from shattering. Geobond® is plaster material that is virtually indestructible, fire-proof and non-toxic and is the world’s first workable replacement for asbestos! Billings received her patent in 1997 and as great grandmother, artist and inventor she still sits at the helm of her Kansas City based empire, selling Geobond in more than 20 markets worldwide.

To read more about Patricia Billings visit,

About.com – Patricia Billings

Engineering.com: Patricia Billings


3.       Marion Donovan – Inventor of Disposable Diapers

Marion deserves the gratitude of parents around the world for this ingenious invention, but if it wasn’t for her persistence they would never have made it to market. In the early 1950’s Donovan fashioned a special type of paper that was strong, absorbent and conveyed water away from the baby’s skin. But incredulously, everyone she talked to told her idea was, “superfluous and impractical.” Almost a decade later, in 1961, Victor Mills drew upon her vision and created Pampers®.

To read more about Marion Donovan visit,

Famous Women Inventors – Marion Donovan

Metroactive Features – Woman Inventor Marion Donovan

Papers Illustrate Woman Inventor's Life and Work


4.       Bette Nesmith Graham – Inventor of Liquid Paper®

Chances are you still have a bottle of Liquid Paper® on your desk for those unexpected errors that require a quick ‘erase’, but it was of course, much more popular with the introduction of the electric typewriter after World War II. Bette Nesmith Graham and the thousands of other secretaries were thrilled with the new, faster typewriters but the carbon-film ribbons made it difficult to correct mistakes neatly with an eraser. Graham’s ‘ah-ha’ moment came as she watched painters decorating the bank windows for the holidays. When they made a mistake, they didn’t have to start over, they simply covered it up with an additional layer. Her first product, ‘Mistake Out’ was sold in 1956. By 1958 Bette perfected the formulation and renamed it, ‘Liquid Paper. ®

For more information on Bette Nesmith Graham visit:

Celebrating Texas: Bette Nesmith Graham

Women Inventors: Bette Nesmith Graham

Lemelson-MIT Inventor of the Week: Bette Nesmith Graham


5.       Ruth Handler – Inventor of the Barbie® Doll

Mattel’s flagship toy, Barbie®, was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, a mom who love to watch her daughter play with paper dolls. One afternoon as she watched her daughter and friends playing with their two-dimensional dolls, she noticed they acted out the future rather than the present. This led Handler to design a three-dimensional doll that girls could use to ‘act out their dreams.’ After premiering at the Toy Fair in 1959 Barbie®, named after her daughter, Barbara, was an instant success. Ruth later invented the male counterpart, Ken doll after her son of course.

For more information on Ruth Handler visit,

Wikipedia – Barbie® History

Mattel: In Memory of Ruth Handler

Inventor Ruth Handler Biography


6.       Dr. Grace Murray Hopper – Inventor of COBOL Computer Language

Dr. Hopper grew up dismantling clocks to see how they worked and this curiosity carried on through her life making her one of the most renowned women inventors in history. Brilliant, dedicated and innovative, Grace led the team who invented COBOL (Common Oriented Business Language) in 1961. She won numerous awards including the National Medal of Technology which was presented to her by President George Bush in 1991. She had received honorary degrees from 30 universities by the time she passed away in 1992.

For more information on Dr. Grace Murray Hopper visit,

Lemelson MIT – Inventor of the Week

Science Women – Dr. Grace Murray Hopper


7.       Mary Phelps Jacob – Invented the Modern Brassiere

Truly a woman to be revered, Mary Phelps Jacob, put an end to excruciatingly uncomfortable undergarments that used whale bones and steel rods to hold the upper body in an unnatural and agonizing position. Born in New York, this inventive young woman was determined to create an alternative to the barbaric corsets of the early 20th century. With the help of her maid she took two silk handkerchiefs, some pink ribbon and a cord and sewed the first ‘backless brassiere.’ Jacob later sold her invention to Warner Brothers Corset Company.

For more information on Mary Phelps Jacob visit,

About.com – Mary Phelps Jacob

Famous Women Inventors – Mary Phelps Jacob

Lemelson-MIT Inventor of the Week: Mary Phelps Jacob


8.       Stephanie Kwolek – Invented Kevlar®

Kevlar® has truly revolutionized many industries, the most notable of which is law enforcement and national defense. Stephanie Kwolek was working with DuPont when she gained national recognition in 1960 for her work with long molecule chains at low temperatures. Over a decade later she discovered a liquid crystalline polymer solution that had incredible strength and stiffness – this led to the invention of Kevlar®, a synthetic material that is five times as strong as steel. Kevlar is used in bulletproof vests, skis, safety helmets, hiking and camping gear and suspension bridge cables. Kwolek’s efforts resulted in her being the recipient or co-recipient of 17 US patents.

For more information on Stephanie Kwolek visit,

Stephanie Kwolek, Inventor of Kevlar®

Innovative Lives: Stephanie Kwolek, Woman Inventor


9.       Patsy Sherman – Invented Scotchgard™ Stain Repellent

Patsy Sherman was a research chemist who worked at 3M when she and her colleague, Sam Smith, happened upon what we know today as Scotchgard™ quite by accident. They had been assigned the task of coming up with a new kind of rubber for jet aircraft fuel lines when one day a bottle of the solution they were working on dropped on the white canvas tennis shoe of one of the assistance. As they tried to remove the substance they realized it could not be washed away by any solvents and it repelled water, oil and other liquids. After a few more years of research 3M released Scotchgard™.

Patsy’s advice to aspiring inventors, “Keep your eyes and mind open and don’t ignore something that doesn’t come out the way you expect it to. Just keep looking at the world with the inventor’s eyes!”

For more information about Patsy Sherman visit,

Inventions at Play

Famous Women Inventors – Patsy Sherman


10. Ruth Wakefield – Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie

Last but certainly not least is a woman whose invention has been putting smiles on people’s faces since 1930! Ruth Wakefield created the chocolate chip cookie by accident when she realized she was out of baker’s chocolate and substituted pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate. She thought the chocolate would simply absorb into the dough to create chocolate cookies but when she removed them from the oven the chocolate chip cookie was born.

Ruth’s cookies became a favorite at the Toll House Inn that her family owned and where Ruth prepared meals and baked and her recipe was published in a Boston Newspaper as well as  other parts of New England. Interestingly, Nestle saw sales of its chocolate bard jump, and Ruth and Nestle came together to reach an agreement that would allow Nestle to print the “Toll House Cookie” recipe on its packaging and in return, Ruth would receive all the chocolate she could use for the rest of her life. Ruth passed away in 1977 but will forever in our minds as we savor chocolate chip cookies.

For more information on Ruth Graves Wakefield visit,

Lemelson-MIT – Ruth Graves Wakefield

Nestle Toll House - History

Christine Dubyts  |  www.dubytscom.com
Christine Dubyts is crazy about marketing and helping businesses stay in business, grow and prosper. As a fempreneur she has a special interest in working with other women business owners with their marketing and business growth efforts.