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