In 1903, after watching drivers in New York City lean out of their windows or stop and get out to clear their windshields of rain and snow, inventor M. Anderson designed a swinging arm with a rubber blade that was operated with a lever from inside the vehicle – the first windshield wiper.
Following in 1917, C. Bridgwood, president of Bridgwood Manufacturing Co. in New York, patented the first automatic wipers.
In 1942, H. Lamarr, a successful Hollywood screen star by trade, patented a “secret communication system” intended to help deter enemies from detecting radio messages during World War II by quickly changing frequencies, making it harder for them to block the signals.
The technology needed to accomplish this wasn’t in place at that time, but Lamarr’s concept is now considered the beginning of cell phone technology.
These inventions, along with others such as fire escapes, electric hot water heaters, refrigerators and car heaters are important pieces of American history and modern life.
But they all have one more thing in common. The sawmill worker was Tabitha, the New York traveler was Mary, the Bridgwood president was Charlotte, and the communications wiz was Hedy.
They were all women.
March is National Women’s History Month, also known as an excuse to Google more stuff. Before last week, I wasn’t aware that (1) this “month” existed and (2) just how many inventions are credited to women.
(I think I always suspected, just never knew.)
It’s good to celebrate the women that affect us personally—friends, moms, daughters—as often as we can, not just when the calendar reminds us. But it’s also good to learn the history we all share and how so many women, inventors and otherwise, were thinking and doing well beyond the expectations anyone had for them (Virginia Woolf, Eleanor Roosevelt). And many others who are committed to their causes today (Jane Goodall, Mariane Pearl, my personal favorite).
If you are a woman—or if you know one—who appreciates good stories about inspirational women, I can’t recommend this one enough: link to Mariane Pearl’s global diaries on the Glamour magazine Web site: www.glamour.com/news/ globaldiary.