A warm house, great hair and healthy eyes. These are all the wonderful things use often or made a big impact on society! But do you know some of the names behind these developments? Meet the women who forged these innovations as we take a journey through time.
Sarah was born in the south during 1850. She became a free woman after 1865, and moved to Chicago to open a furniture store. Her customers mostly lived in small apartments, and had little room for things like a bed and a desk. Wanting to find a way to save space while still having essential pieces of furniture, she drafted up an idea.
As a solution, she created the “folding bed’. When needed, it could be used as a desk, but when unfolded, it functioned as a bed. Wanting to own her idea, Sarah got a patent for her invention on July 14th, 1885. And with that, history was made! Sarah became the first African American woman to receive a US patent.
Annie was born in Illinois during 1869 as an orphan, raised by her older sister. In school, Annie took a liking to chemistry, while also experimenting with hairstyles on herself and her sister. At the time, many African American women sought to straighten their hair, but could only use damaging oils and grease to achieve the look. Annie wanted to study the different textures of black hair and how to keep them healthy.
By 1900, she began to sell her own formula called the “Wonderful Hair Grower”, went on to patent a version of a hot comb for straightening hair, and develop other hair care products. In 1906, she trademarked her products under the name “Poro”. She also began to train other women to use her products when she opened Poro College in St Louis, MO, soon selling her merchandise nationwide. Becoming one of the first black female millionaires in the US, she often gave much of her wealth to charities and orphanages to aid the black community. She is considered the mother of black beauty and cosmetics.
Alice was born in New Jersey during 1895. Not much is known about her personal life. But we do know she attended Howard University Academy for high school and graduated with honors at the young age of 15! Her hometown tended to get extremely cold in the winter, but at the time, the main way to warm up a house was to burn wood in a fireplace.
Wanting to find a way to heat all the rooms of her house, Alice developed a heating furnace. The system drew in cold natural air and converted it to warm air through ducts, like the heating vents in houses today. There was no more need to obtain coal or chop wood for burning, and she even designed a way to control how much heat each room received. Alice was granted her patent on December 23rd, 1919.
Marie was born in New York during 1895. She grew up and become a nurse, got married and had two kids. Her and her husband, an electrician, worked unusual hours or arrived home late. Unfortunately, the neighborhood she stayed in was unsafe. But when they attempted to call the police, help was slow to respond. Marie needed a better way to protect their house.
In 1966 Marie and her husband were granted a patent for a home security system. A camera was hidden inside of a front door that had peepholes for the camera to look through. The images from the camera were displayed on a screen inside the house, and Marie would be able to hear and speak to whoever was outside. It also had the ability to unlock the door remotely and sound an alarm. Her invention leads the way for the more advanced systems used today.
Patricia Bath was born in New York during 1942. Her interest in science was sparked when her mother bought her a chemistry set at a young age. She graduated high school in just two years, and by 1973, Patrica became an ophthalmologist, a doctor for the eyes. She was inspired to bring eye care to those who couldn’t afford treatment in black communities. Access to treatment matters if the patient has a cataract, a medical condition that clouds their eyesight and can cause blindness. Patrica wanted to find an easier, less painful way to remove cataracts.
With the groundbreaking use of laser technology, Patrica developed the Laserphaco Probe. This device removed an entire cataract with a laser beam, something doctors had never been able to do. A patent was filed in 1986, making Patricia the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She took her discoveries abroad often, restoring the sight of people who had been blind for years. She also co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.
Marian was born in Pennsylvania during 1955. Her father encouraged her to pursue science as a young girl, helping her build a chemistry lab in their home. Right after receiving her PHD, she joined AT&T in 1982. But it wasn’t until the early 90s that Marian realized wired line telephones, the old way of communicating, would become obsolete. From there, she became an important voice in the company's advancement.
Marian steered AT&T to use Internet Protocol for their communication devices when she developed Vioce Over IP. Using the internet for cell phones improved the quality of voice calling, texting, and later, video calling. It is almost impossible to credit Marian with one specific patent, for she has been granted over 300 in her lifetime. But in 2005, she received a patent for the technology that helps people make charitable donations through text. This has been used during several crisis situations and natural disasters. In 2014, she joined Google and is currently in charge of expanding internet access around the world.