Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In Praise of Women Inventors, Most of Whom Happen To Be Mothers

(Because women should be praised all of the time, not just on Mother’s Day and National Women’s History Month)

I saw a sign not too long ago (at the bookstore, library?) proclaiming June as ‘National Men’s Month.’ Oh, so the last 2000+ years haven’t been enough? They have to claim the month of June, too?

Where would the world be without women?

Women are the inventors of life, the single most important force on the planet. There have been many who have been either ignored altogether, or passed the invention off to the credit of a man.

Here is a little gem from Inventors and Inventions: C.D. Tuska (1957)

-“I shall write little about female inventors…most of our inventors are of the male sex. Why is the percentage [of women] so low? I am sure I don’t know, unless the good Lord intended them to be mothers. I, being old-fashioned, hold that they are creative enough without also being ‘inventive.’ They produce the inventors and help rear them, and that should be sufficient.”

From the very mundane, most practical items (brown paper bags!!) to Nuclear Fission; from Hypatia to Hedy Lamar, women have been inventing throughout history.

Inventions abound on the domestic front, though most are considered as improvements to make life better and easier. No woman won any awards for these. They were merely looking for a better solution to the drudgery of housework and raising their children. Such women as Melitta Bentz, inventor of the drip coffee method; Marion Donovan created the disposable diaper; Anne Moore, the Snugli carrier and Margaret Knight-brown paper bags.

One of my favorites for ingenuity is Mary Peck Butterworth. Everybody wondered how she got her fortune. She counterfeited Rhode Island currency in the 1700's while living in Massachusetts and, essentially, never got caught. There wasn't enough evidence!

Among the doctors/healers/mothers was Dr. Virginia Apgar, of which the Apgar Score is named for. She was a leader in her field, but would never get as far as she would have liked because of her gender.

Many women who have made some of the most astounding and important discoveries of our time have been overshadowed by men, or simply dismissed for being too far ahead of their time.

Take Lady Mary Montague: she invented the smallpox vaccine nearly a century before Edward Jenner. Guess who got the credit? Then there was Nettie Stevens (a native Vermonter), who discovered the X and Y chromosomes in 1905. At the same time, a male scientist, Edmund B. Wilson, was conducting the same study. Who is more remembered for that discovery today?(for more on Stevens and Wilson click here)

Sometimes it seems as if we, as women, have not come far at all, and at times, even fall a step or two backwards. Granted, we are not torturing ourselves wearing wale bone corsets as a ‘necessary’ item of clothing, nor are we struggling for our right to vote (that only took 200 years). But, we are still underpaid in the work force; we are still struggling, as mothers, as women to adequately support our families, and ourselves.

A few months ago, CNN announced the Senate knocked down a proposal to raise the minimum wage. It stands at $5.15 an hour. There is no way anyone can live on that, let alone support a family.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Great post...it makes we want to go our and invent something!