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10 inventions which wouldn’t exist without these incredible Black women.

3D Movies

Invented by Dr. Valerie Thomas.

Dr. Thomas was born in Maryland, USA in 1943, and is an American

scientist and inventor. She invented the Illusion Transmitter, known

to us as a 3D image.

As a child, Valerie was interested in science and used to watch her

father build and take apart their TV and was intrigued after seeing

the mechanical parts inside.

At just eight years old, Valerie read The Boys First Book on

Electronics, which sparked her interest in a career in science. She

attended an all-girls school and was never encouraged to pursue any

science or mathematics courses, though she did manage to take a

physics course. Valerie did not have a lot of support as a young child

for her love of the sciences. Valerie’s parents and school teachers

didn’t fight for her right to study such masculine topics.

GPS Maps

Invented by Dr. Gladys West

Dr. West was born in Virginia, USA, in 1930 and is an American

mathematician known for her contributions to the mathematical

modelling of the shape of the Earth. Gladys’ work on the development

of the satellite geodesy models were eventually incorporated into the

Global Positioning System (GPS). West was inducted into the United

States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018.

Hair Conditioner

Invented by Madam C.J Walker

Born as Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana, USA in 1867, she was an American

entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She

is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in

the Guinness Book of World Records. Walker made her fortune by

developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair care products

for black women.

There’s a great TV series called “Self Made” on Netflix which

dramatises the story of Madam C.J Walker and her legacy.

The Sanitary Belt (menstrual pads)

Invented by Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

Kenner was born in 1912 in North Carolina was an American inventor

most noted for her development of the “sanitary belt”. Due to extreme

racial discrimination against her, the adoption of her idea was

avoided for thirty years.

Mary was originally granted money to develop the first belt, however

when the company who first showed interest in her invention, the

Sonn-Nap-Pack Company,  discovered that she was African American, they

rejected the development of the product. Kenner never made any profit

or gained any credit of the sanitary belt, because her patent expired

and became public domain, allowing it to be manufactured freely.

Home Security Systems

Invented by Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie was born in 1922 in Jamaica, Queens, New York, and was an

American inventor. She was the inventor of the home security system,

along with her husband Albert Brown.

Brown was inspired by how long it would take the police to arrive in

her neighbourhood. She and her husband invented the first form of a

home security system. Her work hours were not the standard 9–5, and

the crime rate in their area was very high. Wondering who was on the

other side of her door was always something Brown worried about and so

she took the initiative to do something about it.

Caller ID & Call Waiting

Invented by Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley was born in 1946 and is an American physicist.

She is the first African-American woman to have earned a doctorate at

the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) and is also the second

African-American woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in

physics. In 1995 President Bill Clinton appointed Jackson to serve as

Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), becoming the

first woman and first African American to hold that position. She also

became Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board for Barack


Central Heating

Invented by Alice H. Parker

Alice was born in Morristown, New Jersey in 1895. Parker grew to

become an American inventor known for inventing a furnace that

supplied central heating for homes and entire buildings.

Alice's patent for heating furnace was filed shortly after World War I in1919.

Women had very limited opportunities in the early 20th century, let

alone women of colour. Racial and sexual discrimination were extremely

prevalent. At the time, Parker receiving a patent for her invention as

both a woman and an African American was truly unusual and an

outstanding achievement for her and a new inspired generation of

African American women.

The Ironing Board

Invented by Sarah Boone

Boone lived between 1832-1904 and in 1892 she obtained United States

patent rights for her improvements to the ironing board. Boone's

ironing board was designed to improve the quality of ironing sleeves

and the bodies of women's garments. Along with Miriam Benjamin, Ellen

Eglin, and Sarah Goode, Boone was one of four African American women

inventors of her time who developed new technology for the home.

Voice Over Internet Calls

Invented by Dr. Marian Croak

Marian Rogers Croak is currently the Vice President of Engineering at

Google. Dr Croak is credited as one of the developers of Voice over IP

creating most of methods and features that both improved its


In 2012 Croak wrote a letter to young women in technology in the

Huffington Post and in 2013 was introduced to the Women in Technology

Hall of Fame.

Dr. Marian was elected as Vice Chair of ATIS, a technology development

organisation and was honoured for “Outstanding Technical Contribution

– Industry” at the 28th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards in

2014. In the same year she was listed in the Most Influential Women in

Wireless list by FierceWireless. She was further honoured at Culture

Shifting: A Weekend of Innovation in 2014.

Gif Animation

Invented by Lisa Gelobter

Lisa Gelobter (born in 1971) is a computer scientist, technologist and

chief executive. Lisa was the Chief Digital Service Officer for the

United States Department of Education and is known for developing the

animation used in GIF images which are widely used across the internet

and most social platforms.

She served as Chief Digital Service Officer for the United States

Department of Education during the Presidency of Barack Obama. In the

position, she helped to improve, reducing the number of

individual pages and overall application time. She led the team that

built the United States Department of Education College Scorecard,

which helped college students make sensible choices about college


Prior to public service, Gelobter was the Chief Digital Officer for

BET Networks and was a member of the senior management team for the

launch of Hulu.

It's important we give credit it where it is due and shine light on these incredible women who were and remain an inspiration to us today.

Lots of love,

Women Connect x

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