10 Women Who Managed to Change the World for the Better, But Now People Hardly Remember Them

Almost 5 billion people in the world own a computer, but what you may not know is that there are 6 women behind the creation of the very first one. Unfortunately, like these 6 women, female inventors are often overlooked in history. Many of our daily household items have been invented by women, from hair straighteners to diapers, but we don’t even know it. Let’s change that.

1. A cure for leprosy

Invented by: Alice Ball

This young chemist found the treatment for leprosy by injecting chaulmoogra oil into her patients. This led to people being released from leper colonies, but unfortunately, she never saw the impact her work had. In 1916, she passed away suddenly from an illness at the young age of 24.

After her death, the president of her university continued her research and took all of the credit, as he now is often remembered as the person who first cured leprosy.

2. Plaster casts

Invented by: Elinor Hallé and Anne Acheson

Halleé was a well-known sculptor. During the First World War, she volunteered with the Surgical Requisites Association. During this time, she witnessed how broken limbs were treated usually by holding them together with only wooden splints and basic bandages. She and another sculptor Anne Acheson suggested that these bandages could be changed for a plaster cast. Afterward, when the cast had hardened, they could wrap it with paper-mâché. It could then be placed on the broken limb whilst the bones healed.

3. Waterproof and disposable diapers

Invented by: Marion Donovan

This ingenious mother successfully came up with the idea of waterproof diapers, getting her work patented in 1951. They were a great hit at the time, but when she invented a disposable version, every manufacturer turned down the new design.

However, in 1961, Victor Mills founded the company, Pampers. He managed to mass-produce disposable diapers and Marion was long forgotten as Pampers became the face of the modern diaper.

4. The original singer of “Hound Dog”

Sung by: Willie Mae Thornton

This is perhaps one of the most famous songs sung by Elvis Presley, however, he was not the first one to sing it. It was actually originally sung by the blues singer and songwriter, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. It rose to the top of the R&B charts in 1953, selling 2 million copies. However, she only earned $500 from this hit song.

A few years later, Elvis took her song and adapted it for a more mainstream audience. It instantly became a hit and helped him to become a star, earning him quite a bit of money. Willie Mae died in 1984 in poverty.

5. А bobbinless sewing machine

Invented by: Beulah Louise Henry

Beulah Louise Henry patented lots of inventions. For example, she created the “Double-chain stitch sewing machine.” At that time, almost all sewing machines were provided with bobbins which got frequently broken. Henry saw this problem and decided that she would come up with an easier way.

Her invention meant that the speed of the typical sewing machine was double as fast and allowed the user to employ smaller threads. The stitch was also just as strong. This invention allowed seamstresses to do larger loads and take on more jobs by eliminating time unnecessarily spent on fixing and untangling threads twisted by the bobbin.

6. Hypertext fiction

Invented by: Judy Malloy

Hypertext fiction is an online book where readers can click through parts of the story in any order they wish to re-shape the narrative. She published the first story of its kind in 1986, known as Uncle Roger.

However, a novelist named Michael Joyce is remembered by many as the inventor of hypertext fiction with his story, afternoon, a story, which was published over 5 years later in 1990. In 1992, a New York Times book critic named Michael Joyce the “granddaddy” of hypertext fiction, cementing him in history as its inventor and completely overlooking Judy.

7. Botanical time-lapse photography

Invented by: Henderina Scott

This botanist was among the first to use photography to record the movements of plants for her studies. Around 1903, she made a short film that showed the development of the flower, Sparmannia africana, which she showed to the Royal Horticultural Society. This is the only credit she’s received for her use of photography to make a film.

Plant botanical photography is credited to F. Percy Smith, not Henderina. From 1911-1912, he used time-lapse photography to record the movement of flowers in Yosemite. This gave him credit as the pioneer of time-lapse images for the scientific study of plants.

8. Extinct dwarf mammals

Discovered by: Dorothea Bate

This paleontologist made some of the biggest discoveries regarding prehistoric life thanks to her work with fossils in the early twentieth century. As one of the first females to be employed at the Natural History Museum in London, she discovered several extinct species as well as evidence of ancient mammal dwarfism and giganticism.

Because of the times, her work wasn’t widely recognized for her incredible breakthroughs. She remained largely unknown and with little credit, even though her discoveries are still relevant to archaeologists and paleontologists today.

9. Signal flares

Invented by: Martha Coston

This inventor made an important contribution with the Coston flare, used for communicating when out at sea. She successfully patented her design in 1859 after the death of her husband. Using his notebooks, she completed his research and gave us the signal flare.

However, at the time, she wasn’t given the credit she deserved, as she was short-sold for her patent and other services by thousands of dollars.

10. The first electronic computer

Programmed by: 6 women

The ENIAC computer was the first electronic computer, and it was built between 1943 and 1945. 6 women breathed life into the machine as its primary programmers: Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman. Despite this, John Mauchly is very often credited for the invention of the computer that would change life as we knew it.

Who is your female role model? Why?

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