A new book shines a light on the birth of many everyday items and designs we take for granted – and the women behind them.
From the board game that can be found in almost every home, over a century later, to safety devices that still save lives, inspiring female minds have been behind some intriguing inventions.
In 1904, social campaigner Elizabeth Magie created a game called The Landlord’s Game. It was intended to show that rent served to enrich a landowner and impoverish tenants. Her game had two sets of rules; under one ‘prosperity’ all players received income when one bought property. Under the second, the ‘monopolist’ rule, players landing on someone else’s property had to pay rent – until all but one went bankrupt. In 1935 a games company bought Magie’s idea and Monopoly as we know it was born in 1936.
The fast drying white liquid that saves many an error on a document, was first created in 1956 by office worker Bette White. Bette came up with Liquid Paper for her own use to correct typing mistakes. Other people were interested in it so she set up her own company to produce it and made her fortune from it. (She was also the mother of Monkees’ star Micky Dolenz!)
There may still be jokes about women drivers but in 1903 a woman made driving safer for all. Mary Anderson was the brains behind the first car window cleaning device – although she invented it for use on tram windows. Another woman, Charlotte Bridgewood, improved on Mary’s design in 1917, creating the first electronically operated wipers.
Engineer and inventor Maria Beasley hit on an idea that would become one that would save many lives in the future. In 1880 she revolutionised the design of life rafts used on ships at the time. She created a safe, foldable option, made from fire-proof material. Maria’s life rafts were on board the Titanic when it sank in 1912, and helped to save over 700 lives.
Bright Sparks – Amazing Discoveries, Inventions & Designs by Women by Owen O’Doherty (O’Brien)