Maria V. Hernandez
In recognition of National Women's History Month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has unveiled a new exhibit in its museum in Arlington, Virginia that recognizes and pays tribute to those female innovators, whose creativity and inventions play an important role in America's technological past, present, and future. The exhibit, is the second phase of a permanent exhibit on minority and women inventors called Colors of Innovation: Celebrating the Diversity of America's Creativity.
Colors of Innovation highlights women, such as Mary Dixon Kies who received the first patent awarded to a woman in 1809 for inventing a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. Other notable women inventors are Martha J. Colston, who developed an idea for a system of flares, which served as the basis of a system of communication that helped to save lives and win battles; and Gertrude B. Elion, who patented a leukemia-fighting drug, 6-mercaptopurine, and whose name is attached to 45 patents. Swimsuits were improved by Carol Wior with her invention of the Slimsuit, which was guaranteed to take an inch off the waist. Grace Hopper developed a common language for computers to communicate called COBOL; and Stephanie Louise Kwolek's research led to the development of Kevlar, the material used, for example, in bullet proof vests and kayaks.
Even Hollywood actresses got in the business of inventing and patenting. Hedy Lamar, with the help of composer George Antheil, invented, and patented in 1941, a secret communication system in an effort to help the allies defeat the Germans in World War II. Julie Newmar, the former Catwoman, patented ultra-sheer, ultra-snug pantyhose.
Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley emphasized the importance of women innovators, "This exhibit is a chance to celebrate and give reason to encourage girls and women to pursue science, math, and technology-based courses and careers."
"The number of patents granted to women has quintupled in the last 20 years-and continues to rise-proving that a woman's place is, indeed, in the Patent and Trademark Office," said Q. Todd Dickinson, acting assistant secretary of commerce and acting commissioner of patents and trademarks.
The PTO Museum is located at 2121 Crystal Drive, Suite 0100, in Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. The exhibit, Colors of Innovation: Celebrating the Diversity of America's Creativity. Women Inventors runs from March 2-31, 1999. The permanent exhibit, Colors of Innovation: Celebrating the Diversity of America's Creativity will open in the lobby of Crystal Plaza 4, 2201 South Clark Place, in April.