10 African-American Women Whose Inventions Changed Our Modern Lives

You probably have some of them in your house!

Check the out the list of 10 outstanding African-American women and their wonderful inventions.

1. Sarah E. Goode and a folding bed

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In 1885 entrepreneur Sarah E. Goode from Toledo, Ohio, got the world acquainted with an unusual bed.

The so-called folding cabinet bed could be constructed into a roll-top desk.

The idea came from a necessity. At the time many people lived in small houses with limited space to store domestic things.

Sarah was the first African-American woman to receive the patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

2. Miriam Benjamin and a hotel chair

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Miriam Benjamin obtained her patent in 1888 for an invention she called a Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels.

The invention was used to improve customer service in hotels and restaurants. When visitors needed service, they pressed a button on the back of a chair to notify waitstaff.

Benjamin’s invention is now used in the U.S.  House of Representatives and airplanes.

3. Lyda Newman and an innovative hairbrush

Source: wikicommons

Hairdresser by profession, Lyda Newman greatly contributed to the evolution of a hairbrush.

What was unusual about it? Her hairbrush promoted ventilation and provided more hygiene. It had synthetic bristles, storage for impurities and was durable in construction. A user could easily clean it.

In 1898 Lyda Newman was granted a patent for her invention.

4. Alice Parker and gas heating system

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Alice Parker invented an innovative and improved gas heating furnace that provided central heating. It was her idea to use a single centrally located source of heat to provide warmth to a house via air pipes.

It is believed that the invention was born from Alice’s childhood memories of long and cold winters in New Jersey.

She got a patent for the improved design on December 23, 1919.  Thanks to the changes Alice Parker offered, millions of houses worldwide today have centralized heating.

5. Marjorie Stewart-Joyner and a hair-wave machine

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Marjorie Stewart-Joyner is an American cosmetologist, beautician and businesswoman.

She invented a permanent hair-wave machine that could curl straight hair and, vice versa, straighten curly hair. The machine was patented in 1928.

The idea struck Marjorie when she worked in her own beauty shop. She was looking for a way to speed up curling process.

6. Marie Van Brittan Brown and home security system

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Marie Van Brittan Brown  was the originator of home security system, which she invented together with her husband Albert.

Their system had a set of four peep-holes and a camera.  The camera slided up and down to look at each one and everything the camera picked up appeared on a monitor

Marie got a patent for it in 1969. Though the system was initially created for domestic purposes, many enterprises subsequently used it.

7. Shirley Ann Jackson and scientific breakthroughs in physics

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Shirley Jackson is the physicist and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT in nuclear physics (1973). She was awarded different titles and received multiple awards.

Her breakthrough research in telecommunication contributed to the invention of portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, call waiting and fiber optic cables.

Shirley Ann Jackson is now the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

8. Ruane Sharon Jeter and a toaster

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Little is known about Ruanne Jeter. What we know is that she invented a toaster with a digital clock to allow consumers to control how brown their bread is. The toaster was patented in 1987.

Together with her sister Sheila, Lynn Jeter created and held patents for some office handheld devices. They were stapler and staple remover, pencil sharpener, sheathed scissors and tape measure.

9. Patricia Bath and laser surgical tool

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Patricia Bath became the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent in 1988.

Overall, she holds four patents; the most distinguished is for a medical device used for ablating and removing cataracts from an eye lens.

Called Laserphaco Probe, this surgical tool provides a less painful, less risky and more precise treatment of cataracts.

Laserphaco Probe can restore the sight of people who had been blind for more than 30 years. Now it is used worldwide.

10. Janet Emerson Bashen and software program

Source: Janet Emerson Bashen/Facebook

Janet is the first woman inventor in software development. Moreover, she is the first black woman to obtain a patent in this industry. She was issued it in January 2006.

The software she developed is called LinkLine. It organizes claims, reports and documents management as well as simplifies intake and tracking.  

With Janet Bashen’s invention, companies manage their business processes more effectively.

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