International Women's Day: 8 things that wouldn't exist without women
To celebrate Women's Day (March 8), we've decided to take a look back at eight female inventors, entrepreneurs, and creators, who forever changed history, but have often been overlooked in our textbooks, and shared cultural memory.
A day without women would also be a day without good coffee, and WiFi. Your hair would be a tangled mess, and you'd still be dealing with soggy cloth diapers. Frankly, without the contributions of women, life would be less convenient, less evolved, and definitely a lot less fun. Observed since the early 1900s on March 8, International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social — while calling for gender equality. To mark the special occasion, we're celebrating eight female inventors, entrepreneurs, and creators who brought us everything — from seriously groundbreaking innovations to daily necessities to fun guilty pleasures.
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The world's first computer programmer was a woman named Ada Lovelace, and she's even more of a badass than you might think. She lived in London from 1815 to 1852, and was an influential contributor to English mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage's trailblazing number-crunching machines. Those favourite apps and websites that you check every day? They're possible because of her.
Before you complain that your WiFi is slow, think about the decades of innovation that went into it. WiFi wouldn't be possible without Austrian-born American film actress Hedy Lamarr, who grew bored of Hollywood and spent her time doing science experiments. In an effort to help the Allies during World War II, Hedy presented the US Navy with a patent on a spread-spectrum radio, which is seen as a precursor to today's WiFi.
With half a billion Harry Potter books printed in more than 70 languages worldwide, it's safe to say that a large portion of the human population has experienced the magical journey of the child wizard. Without Potter creator J.K. Rowling, we'd have a lot less magic in our lives, and perhaps the only story more compelling than the epic series is Rowling's own, which includes many hardships (she was once jobless and penniless, and even admits to having considered suicide), spans several countries, and continues to unfold.
Your morning coffee
The next time you prepare your coffee with a fresh filter, say cheers to Melitta Bentz. Thanks to the German housewife's invention, patented in 1908, we can sip our favourite blends without worrying about gross coffee grinds muddling up our mornings. In 1897, she invented the coffee filter using a piece of blotting paper from her son's school notebook.
If you find yourself changing a dirty diaper, distract yourself by thinking of Marion Donovan, inventor of the first disposable version. The US housewife was tired of coming into the nursery and finding a soggy diaper and damp sheets, so she set out to create a waterproof diaper. Though she patented her invention in 1951, she could never find a manufacturer to buy her design — the men at the companies didn't find it necessary.
Love sipping a cold beer on a hot day? While men may be the target demographic for most beer ads, we have women to thank for those tasty ales. According to research by British historian and award-winning writer Jane Peyton, the earliest evidence of beer in Britain dates back thousands of years, when beer was made within the home and women were the primary brewers.
Though we don't know who came up with the original brush or comb, we do know who patented the first hairbrush, and it was — you guessed it — a woman. Lyda Newman, an African-American woman living in New York at the time of her invention, pioneered the use of synthetic bristles with her patent filed in 1898.
Love it or hate it, no one can argue that Monopoly has staying power. The game was invented by a woman, but a man took the credit. Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie came up with the first version, patenting it in 1903, and 30 years later, Charles Darrow would take Magie's idea, tweaking it to be more similar to the game we know today. He sold it to Parker Brothers in 1935.