Five Inspirational Black Women Inventors Who Have Changed Your Life
If you’re like me most of your existence is on autopilot and you really don’t pay much thought to who invented such things that have made your life significantly easier. Since February is Black History Month, I wanted to use this month to launch a series dedicated to the numerous African American women who are not only serious goals, but complete game changers.
Here are five inspirations women who’ve changed your life…and you probably didn’t even know it.
Invention: Modern Day Ironing Board
Sarah Boone in 1892, patented her ironing board, with the intention of making it easier to iron women’s garments. She was born into slavery but is credited as one of the first African American women to receive a patent for her invention. Prior to her improvement, people would iron on tables or wooden planks but still had difficulty ironing sleeves. Her design that offers portability and flexibility in ironing is still the same design that we use today. Because of her, we’re able to look effortlessly fly in linen attire
Invention: Software technology
Lisa Gelobter is a computer scientist and technologist responsible for creating technologies that pretty much changed the internet. Her most noteworthy software invention, in my opinion, is working with a team of pioneers to create Shockwave technology, which powers animated GIFs. Yes! Because of her genius we now have Black Twitter, which is the closest we’ll ever get to Wakunda. Her illustrious career includes serving as Chief Digital Officer for the US Department of Education during the President Obama Administration. During that time, she led a team who created the college scorecard so students can make more informed decisions about selecting their higher education institutions. She has served as Vice President of the BET networks and was part of the team that launched Hulu.
Marie Van Brittan Brown
Invention: Home Security Systems
Marie Van Brittan Brown (and her husband but mostly her) are credited with inventing the early technology for closed-circuit TV system used for home monitoring. Marie was a nurse who worked odd hours and her husband was an electrician. The two invented the camera system so that Marie would feel safe when she was home alone. The way the invention worked is if a person rang the doorbell the occupants inside the home would be able to see who was at the door from their home TV screen and press a button to set off an alarm that could alert a neighbor or neighborhood watch. The couple filed for a patent in 1966 and received approval in 1969. They’re technology laid the groundwork for modem day home security systems. You’re welcome, Ring. If you’re wondering if the Browns have received a profit from companies like Ring or ADT—the answer is “Nah.”
Dr. Marian R. Croak
Invention: VoIP technology
Dr. Marian Croak holds over 125 patents in VoIP technology and is credited as the creator of Voice over IP methods and features. She’s pretty much the reason we’re able to Skype and Facetime our friends and family. She also pioneered the technology of ‘text to give’ during a crisis such as a natural disaster (patented in 2005); making it possible for people to donate to charitable organizations via text message. She’s held many VP positions for companies like ATT Labs and Google. She was recently inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame in 2013 and was named the 2014 Black Engineer of the Year.
Mary Davidson Kenner
Invention: The sanitary belt with moisture-proof napkin
Mary Kenner invented the sanitary napkin and bathroom tissue holder and held other patents that improved our lifestyle. She invented the sanitary belt as an alternative to tampons and cotton rags that women would use during their cycle. While she invented the sanitary belt in 1956, it is believing that its usage was rejected for 30 years simply because its inventor was a black woman. When researching the evolution of sanitary napkins there is no mention of Mary Kenner’s invention although her patent was approved in 1959. Mainstream websites such as the Smithsonian Magazine, who published a piece titled The Surprising Origins of Kotex Pads, does not mention Mary Kenner. However, despite the oversight, we owe a great deal of respect to Mary Kenner for her contribution to women’s hygiene.
Who are other women game changers? Who’s invention resonates most with you? For me, its Lisa Gelobter. I’m not sure how I functioned without GIF powered memes.
Light + Love