Bessie Blount Griffin: Inventor, Crime Fighter, Hospital Wonder Woman

Above is Bessie Virginia Blount Griffin’s patent for an invention that enabled paralyzed or limbless veterans of World War II to feed themselves.

That Bessie Blount Griffin became a inventor, physical therapist, business women, forensics expert and social activist before she passed on in 2009 is all the more remarkable, given that she was born in an era before women — particularly African American women — could expect opportunities in any one of the multiple fields in which she ultimately succeeded. Her life is a lesson in tenacity, irrepressible creativity and a deep sense of empathy for the people and causes she helped.

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Mary Walton: Female Inventor Who Succeeded Where Edison Failed

Mary Walton, inventor
In the 19th century when females were given no credit for engineering savvy, Mary Walton was a rare standout. Her drive and mechanical creativity improved New York City’s elevated railroads.

A practical and creative nineteenth-century boarding house owner, Mary Elizabeth Walton was used to solving mechanical problems. So it was only natural that, when the noise and smoke of the elevated railway next to her building became intolerable, she set out to reinvent the era’s train technology — and succeeded, even where Thomas Edison himself had failed.

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Margaret Knight: The Flat-Bottomed Bag Lady

As a teenager in the 1850s, Margaret Ellen Knight invented a safety device for 19th century power looms. As a young woman, she invented a major consumer product that is part of our daily lives today.

Were it not for this Wednesday’s Woman, baggers at supermarkets all over America would not be able to ask that all-important question: “Paper or plastic?” Margaret Ellen Knight is the inventor of the flat-bottomed paper bag that is a staple of American shopping life.

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Cecelia Payne, The Greatest Female Astronomer In History

Cecelia Payne, the greatest female astronomer in history
British immigrant Cecelia Payne blazed a trail across the skies of academic astronomy to ultimately become the greatest female astronomer of all time.

Although robbed of the credit for her greatest astronomical accomplishment and subjected to nonstop gender discrimination during the rest of her academic career, Cecelia Payne was finally recognized as “the greatest female astronomer in history.” This Wednesday’s Woman’s story is one of brilliance, tenacity and extraordinary scientific achievement in the face of persistent obstructions.

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Mary Anderson: The Woman Who Invented the Windshield Wiper

Female inventor Mary Anderson who created and patented the windshield wiper.
Real estate entrepreneur and cattle ranch operator Mary Anderson came up with and patented the idea of windshield wipers in 1903, years before Henry Ford’s Model T Ford hit the market.

If you’re reading this from anywhere along the east coast and dealing with the after-effects of our New Year’s “bomb cyclone,” you know how annoying that highway spray of grime, salt and slush kicked up on your car’s windshield can be. Meet today’s Wednesday’s Woman, Mary Anderson (1866-1953), the female inventor who created the common, everyday, indispensable windshield wiper.

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Hedy Lamarr, Serious Inventor Trapped in a Hollywood Image

Hedy Lamarr, actress and one of America's most famed female inventors
In parallel with her Hollywood fame, Hedy Lamarr was a constant tinkerer and successful inventor who contributed significant innovative engineering ideas adopted by the U.S. military and consumer industries. In 1997 Lamarr’s engineering work was honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award and in 2014 she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Whoever coined the phrase “more than just a pretty face” could have been describing this Wednesday’s Woman. Hedy Lamarr, the exquisite Hollywood beauty of the 1930s and ’40s, was born into an Austrian Jewish family as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914. She would ultimately go on to become the Hollywood star we all know, as well as a highly successful engineering innovator who most of us were never aware of.

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