The female inventors who changed the world

The female inventors who changed the world

JOY, the story of the American inventor who created the Miracle Mop, starring Jennifer Lawrence, has become one of the biggest films of the year so far. But Joy Mangano (pictured above) isn't the only woman who's great idea has made its mark on history.

To celebrate the DVD release of JOY on April 25, here's eight other woman who've changed the world with their inventions.

Florence Parpart – Modern Electric Refrigerator

It's hard to believe now that we haven't always had the use of an efficient, cololing fridge for our food. But for this modrn privilege we have a lady called Florence Parpart to thank. Florence was an entrepreneur and inventor who created the modern electric fridge; she improved the model during the time and made the first “modern” refrigerator that used electricity. She won a patent for her machine in 1914 and was successful at marketing and selling the product.

Maria Telkes – Home Solar Heating

Residential solar heating was invented by physicist and solar-power pioneer Dr. Maria Telkes,. She teamed up with the architect Eleanor Raymond, to build the first home entirely heated by solar power in 1947.

Marie Van Brittan Brown – CCTV

Marie Van Brittan Brown’s system for closed-circuit television security, patented in 1969, was intended to help people ensure their own security, as police were slow to respond to calls for help in her New York City neighbourhood. Her invention forms the basis for modern CCTV systems used for home security and police work today.

Lillian Gilbreth – Foot Pedal Bin

Lillian Gilbreth improved existing inventions with small, but ingenious, tweaks. In the early 1900s, she designed the shelves inside refrigerator doors, made the can opener easier to use, and tidied up cleaning with a foot pedal bin.

Mary Anderson – Windscreen Wipers

For the ability to see in a rain storm as we make our way from A to B we must thank Mary Anderson who invented the first manual windscreen wipers in 1903. Another woman inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, invented an automatic version with an electric roller in 1917, although neither invention took off at the time. But by the time Anderson's patent expired in 1920, windscreen wipers were cleaning up. Cadillac was the first to include them in every car model.

 Josephine Cochrane – The Dishwasher

Patented as astonishingly early as 1886, the first dishwasher combined high water pressure, a wheel, a boiler, and a wire rack and was invented by Josephine Cochrane. After receiving a patent on December 28, 1886 she showed her invention at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and won the highest prize for "best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work".

The word spread, and soon Cochrane was getting orders for her dishwashing machine from restaurants and hotels in Illinois. However, it wasn't until the 1950s that dishwashers became a common household item after new suburban homes were built with the plumbing required to handle the extra hot water. 

Katherine Blodgett – Glare-Free Glass

Katherine Blodgett got her glare-free glass invention patented in 1935. Thanks to this glare-free invention, we now have glass with a thin, nanometres-thick coating that entirely reduces glare and distortion. It’s called “invisible” glass for its reliability and is often used in picture framing glass and some spectacles.

Stephanie Kwolek– Kevlar

Kevlar, the material used to make bullet-proof vests, is one of the strongest materials in the world, but it was created almost by accident by DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek in 1966. DuPont was looking for a material for stronger tires, and Kwolek and her team kept producing a cloudy, strange chemical solution that they were throwing away. But Kwolek convinced her teammates to “weave” it into a fibre.

Take a look at the story behind JOY here:


  • JOY is available to own on Digital HD™, Blu-ray™ & DVD on April 25, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home