Oftentimes, when discussing famous black inventors, society and education systems, tend to leave out black women who were at the forefront of innovation. From everyday grooming items to the inception of menstrual hygiene, these outstanding female inventors paved the path of our refined modern today. With limited resources and a desire to make the world a better place, these unstoppable black innovators in history inspire us every day.
While these black female inventors may have been lost in the pages of history, their creations are still alive and used around us. Here are seven amazing things that we owe it all to these awe-inspiring black female minds:
1. Madeline M. Turner- Fruit-Press Machine
A fresh-pressed juice after an intense workout class is refreshing, right? Well, you can thank the black female inventor Madeline M. Turner for that. The idea for the fruit press machine came about after growing tired of squeezing oranges by hand one morning. So she set out to create a more efficient way to extract the nectar from the orange. Thus in 1916, this “ingenious” machine was designed, leading the way as the original design plan behind all modern juicers used today. Without this invention, there would be no juice bars or popular juice cleanses. Can you imagine a world without it? We can’t!
2. Lyda D. Newman- Hair Brush
In the past, brushing your hair was not as easy as today. Brushes weren’t as convenient and combing hair could be a tedious process. That's where this Black innovator in history, Lyda D. Newman, stepped in and transformed the process of grooming. In 1898, she patented an improved hairbrush while working as a hairdresser and observing the need for black hair care. Hair Brushes during this period were made of animal hair which is too soft to detangle thicker African American hair. So, she improved the process by producing a brush using synthetic fibers which were more durable and easier to clean. This invention changed the haircare industry and paved the way for famous black inventors like Madam C.J. Walker. Now that’s Black Girl Magic!
3. Sarah Goode- Cabinet Beds
If you live in a small space then you understand the importance of a multi-use piece of furniture. Pieces like the murphy bed would not be possible without this invention from African American woman inventor Sarah Goode. In 1885, Goode created the cabinet bed, a bed that could fold into a desk. As many black families during this time lived in small homes, she wanted to construct a piece that used little space and had dual use. She became the first black female inventor to receive a US patent for her design. Essentially she opened the door for black inventors to get recognized. Talk about pushing the culture forward!
4. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner- The Sanitary Belt
Mary Beatrice is known for filing the most patents of any African American women inventors. Although she had no proper training, she held patents for a bathroom tissue holder, a mounted shower back washer, and a carrier attachment for walkers. However, her most notable creation is the sanitary belt. As adhesive pads had not been invented at that time, the adjustable belt of Beatrice’s innovation with a moisture-proof napkin pocket prevented leaks. During a time when menstruation was taboo, Kenner revolutionized menstrual hygiene by providing women with more options. She is quoted as saying, "My inventions were never about money. I just want to help make life easier for people”. Truly a Black innovator in history that sought to make women's lives just a little less grueling.
5. Sarah Boone- Ironing board
African American women inventor Sarah Boone, a dressmaker, born enslaved, patented an improved way of ironing out women's garments. Before her invention, ironing was done on a wooden plank placed across two chairs. This only seemed to work for men's sleeves and pants, but lacked the form needed in ironing women’s blouses and dresses. Her fix resulted in a narrower, padded, curved board that fit into women’s garments without getting wrinkled. Plus it was collapsible for easy storage. An item that provided functionality and ease in a space-saving design, what more can you ask for?
6. Miriam Benjamin- Gong and Signal Chair
Want extra peanuts for your long flight? Simply touch the flight attendant call button for service, and thank Miriam Benjamin while you are at it. This black innovator in history invented the Gong and Signal Chair. Originally in use at Hotels, customers would push a button located on the chair, which emitted light signaling to the staff service was needed. The Gong and Signal technology was eventually used in the US House of Representatives and airplanes.
In 1888 she became the second black female inventor to receive a patent from the United States government for her design. She laid the groundwork for future black innovators in history to be able to get their inventions to the public.
7. Marie Van Brittan Brown- home security system
Phone, keys, wallet, set the alarm! Many of us have the same routine before we leave the house. But did you know a black woman made it possible for you to feel secure whether you’re home or away? In 1969, Marie Van Brittan Brown patented the Home Security System after feeling unsafe at home due to rising crime rates in her NYC neighborhood. The original design displayed a camera, monitors, two-way mic, and alarm that alerted the police. This was the blueprint for modern security systems from homes to businesses to CCTV used for surveillance. This black innovator in history created a system to keep her family safe and, in turn, has been able to keep millions of people safe all over the world!
African American women inventors have made awe-inspiring contributions to society past and present. Famous black inventors from Madeline M. Turner to Marie Van Brittan Brown have transformed our way of life. They may not have always received credit where credit is due, so this blog is an ode to them. We thank these black innovators in history for their ingenuity & creativity. Where would we be without these inventions or the women behind them today?