With National Women’s Day being celebrated in early March, we wanted to highlight a few famous woman inventors who made valuable contributions to society with their ideas. Whether it is for fun and entertainment or developing technological tools capable of advancing the future, women are responsible for numerous unique and effective inventions.
Ruth Handler served as the president of the toy manufacturer Mattel Inc., and is best known for inventing the Barbie doll. Ruth’s daughter played with paper dolls by pretending they were adults. Handler noted the limitations of the paper dolls, including how the paper clothing failed to attach well. She wanted to produce a three-dimensional plastic “paper doll” with an adult body and a wardrobe of fabric clothing. While vacationing in Europe, she decided to base the “Barbie” doll concept on a German toy named the “Bild lilli doll”. The name “Barbie” comes from Ruth’s daughter, Barbara.
Joy Mangano is known for inventions such as the self-wringing Miracle Mop. She is the current president of Ingenious Designs, LLC, and appears regularly on the US television shopping channel HSN. She developed her first invention, the Miracle Mop, a self-wringing plastic mop with a head made from a continuous loop of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet. With her own savings and investments from family and friends, she made a prototype and manufactured 100 units. It sold modestly at first, but once the television network QVC allowed Mangano to go on-air to sell it herself, she sold 18,000 mops in less than a half hour. The 2015 movie Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence, is loosely based on Mangano’s life.
Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist, who is best known for inventing the first of a family of synthetic fibers of exceptional strength and stiffness: poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, better known as Kevlar. In 1995, she became the fourth woman to be added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and she also won numerous awards for her work in polymer chemistry. Experiments by Kwolek lead to discover that the Kevlar fiber created would not break in situations when nylon typically would. Kevlar is used as a material in more than 200 applications, including tennis rackets, skis, boats, airplanes, ropes, cables, tires, and bullet-proof vests.