230: The Self-Empowered Woman: Inventions by Women

Dear Followers,

In honor of THE 17 TRAITS OF SELF-EMPOWERED WOMEN, here’s a list of important contributions made by (relatively un-applauded) females.  How lucky we all are to benefit from their brainpower!


  1. The Car Heater: We all owe our thanks to Margaret A. Wilcox who invented the car heater in 1893! (She also invented a combined clothes and dishwasher).
  2. Monopoly: This popular board game was designed by Elizabeth Magie in 1904, originally called the Landlord’s Game. The purpose of this game was to expose the injustices of unchecked capitalism.  Her game was ripped off by Charles Darrow who sold it to Parker Brothers 30 years later.  However Parker Brothers later paid Elizabeth $500 for her game. Gee Thanks!
  3. The Fire Escape: The fire escape was invented by Anna Connelly in 1887.
  4. The Life Raft: The life saving Life Raft was invented by Maria Beasely in 1882. (Maria also invented a machine that makes barrels).
  5. Residential Solar Heating: Solar heating for residential housing was invented by Dr. Maria Telkes in 1947. She was also Psychiatrist in addition to being a Solar-Power Pioneer.
  6. The Medical Syringe: A medical syringe that could be operated with only one hand was invented by a woman by the name of Letitia Geer in 1899.
  7. The Modern Electric Refrigerator: The electric refrigerator was invented by Florence Parpart in 1914 (Florence also invented an improved street cleaning machine in addition to the refrigerator).
  8. The Ice Cream Maker: The ice cream maker was invented by a woman named Nancy Johnson in 1843. Her patented design is still used today!
  9. The Computer Algorithm: Ada Lovelace is essentially the first computer programmer due to her work with Charles Babbage at the University of London in 1842. In fact, her notes were an essential key in helping Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.
  10. Telecommunications Technology: Some of the Telecommunication Technology developed through Dr. Shirley Jackson’s scientific research include portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
  11. The Dishwasher: The Dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane in 1887. Before her time, she even marketed her machine to hotel owners and opened her own factory without the help of a man!
  12. Wireless Transmission Technology: Hedy Lamarr, a world famous film star, invented a secret communications system during World War II for radio-controlling torpedoes. This technology also paved the way  for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS.
  13. Closed-Circuit Television Security (CCTV): Marie Van Brittan Brown invented CCTV because of the slow response of police officers in 1969 to help people ensure their own security. This invention influenced modern CCTV systems used for home security and police work today.
  14. The Modern Paper Bag: Margaret Knight invented a machine that made square bottomed paper bags in 1871. She almost didn’t get credit when Charles Anan tried to steal her work, claiming that it wasn’t possible for a woman to create this brilliant invention.  (Margaret also invented a safety device for cotton mills when she was twelve… that invention is still being used today).
  15. Central Heating: Although Alice Parker’s invention in 1919 of a gas powered central heater was never manufactured, her idea was the first that allowed for using natural gas to heat a home, inspiring the central heating systems used today.
  16. Kevlar: This life-saving material that is five times stronger than steel and used to make bulletproof vests was invented in 1965 by Stephanie Kwolek.
  17. Computer Software: Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a computer scientist that invented COBOL which was the first user-friendly business computer software system in the 1940’s.  She was also a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and the first person to use the term “bug” in reference to a glitch in a computer system when she literally found a bug (moth) causing problems with her computer.




About Marilyn Murray Willison

The author of six non-fiction books, Willison worked as Health and Fitness Editor at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and wrote book reviews, health, beauty, fashion, and travel articles on a regular basis for the Los Angeles Times. Her byline has appeared in a wide variety of American newspapers and magazines.