Washington - In celebration of Women's History Month, held each year during the month of March, the Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is recognizing some very special women whose inventions have made a great contribution in making this country the most technologically advanced nation in the world.
In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies, a native of Killingly, Conn., received the first U.S. patent awarded to a woman for a process of weaving straw with silk or thread. Unfortunately, all records of this patent were destroyed in the Patent Office fire of 1836. First Lady Dolly Madison praised Kies for helping the hat industry and boosting the economy because, at the time, the U.S. government had put an embargo on all European goods.
Mary Anderson, of Birmingham, Ala., was granted patent no. 743,801 on November 10, 1903, for a window-cleaning device, essentially windshield wipers. Before the manufacture of the Model A, Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers were forced to open their windows in rainy conditions in order to see. The invention could clean snow, rain, or sleet by using a handle inside the car improving vision during inclement weather. By 1916, these wipers were standard equipment in American cars.
Patsy O. Sherman, born in Minneapolis, along with Samuel Smith, received patent no. 3,574,791 on April 13, 1971, for their invention of block and graft copolymers containing water-solvatable polar groups and fluoroaliphatic groups, otherwise known as Scotchgard®. Sherman and Smith were employees at 3M Company when they collaborated on what became the most famous and widely used stain repellent and soil removal product. What prompted this innovative product was an accidental spill of a flurochemical rubber on a tennis shoe. The shoes showed resistance to water and oily liquids. This accident in the lab led to the Scotchgard® family of products that repel stains and also allow for the removal of oily stains from synthetic fabrics. Sherman holds 13 patents with Smith in flurochemical polymers and polymerization processes. Sherman and Smith were inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2001.
Judy W. Reed, of Washington, D.C., and Sarah E. Goode, of Chicago, were the first African American women inventors to receive patents. Reed may not have been able to sign her name, but she may be the first African American woman to receive a patent. Signed with an "X," patent no. 305,474, granted September 23, 1884, is for a dough kneader and roller. Goode's patent for a cabinet bed, patent no. 322,177, was issued on July 14, 1885. Goode, the owner of a Chicago furniture store at the time of her invention, invented a folding bed that could be formed into a desk when not in use. It was a great space-saving idea!
These patents, as well as the more than six million patents issued since the first in 1790 and the 2.3 million trademarks registered since 1870, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site at www.uspto.gov . Last year USPTO issued 187,824 patents and registered 102,314 trademarks.
"Buttons to Biotech," a report compiled by the USPTO that examines patenting statistics for women, is available on the agency's Web site at www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/reports.htm .
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