The month of March (aka Women's History Month) holds a special place in my heart.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.


March is the month in which we celebrate kickass women like Rosie the Riveter, the notorious RBG, and Ripley from the "Alien" franchise. It's the month in which we all watch "A League of Their Own" at least twice as many times as we watch it every other month (which, for me, is six times).


GIF from "A League of Their Own."

Of course, it wouldn't exactly be controversial to claim that many of women's achievements often go overlooked by their coworkers, clients, and even the media ... sometimes until years after the fact.

So with that in mind, I decided to ring in Women's History Month by taking a look back at some of the incredible, world-changing inventions that we owe to the fairer sex. Here are 12 of them.

1. The bulletproof Kevlar vest

Photo via iStock.

Yes, this otherworldly material that has saved the lives of countless law enforcement agents owes its invention to chemist Stephanie Kwolek, who developed it in 1964 while attempting to create a lighter, more durable material to use for car tires. Considered to be five times stronger than steel, Kevlar was patented in 1966 and is currently used in over 200 common applications.

2. The paper bag

GIF from "The Big Bang Theory."

It may be Papa who has a brand new bag according to James Brown, but in reality, Papa was only able to acquire said bag thanks to the efforts of Margaret Knight, who invented a machine capable of cutting, folding, and gluing the flat-bottomed paper bag in 1868 and later patented it in 1871. Those of us who bring lunches to work and/or suffer occasional panic attacks have never been the same.

3. The fire escape

Photo via iStock.

In an effort to combat the ever-growing number of fire-related deaths being caused by ever-growing apartment complexes, New York City passed a law in 1861 requiring all multi-floor buildings to be fitted with a pair of exterior stairs. Landlords resisted at first due to how much such a set-up cost, and it wasn't until 1887, when Anna Connelly patented the iron-railed fire bridge allowing residents trapped on higher floors to scale from one roof to another, that the future of building safety as we know it was forever changed.

4. The life raft

Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images.

Maria Beasley was something of engineering dynamo in her time, securing patents for everything from foot warmers to anti-derailment devices for trains between 1878 and 1898. While it was her barrel-making machine that earned her an unprecedented payday of over $20,000 a year, Bealey's life raft, which she patented in 1882, was perhaps her most significant contribution to human history. I mean, just think of all the brilliant, lifeboat-based comedy sketches we would have missed out on without it.

5. Signal flares for that life raft

Photo by Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images.

While not technically the pyro behind the flare's invention, it was the tireless efforts of Martha Coston that helped get the signal flare pushed into production. Working off a design found among her late husband's papers, Coston spent close to 10 years developing the system of flare signaling now recognized by the U.S. Navy, which became one of her first customers on the recommendation of former Capt. C.S. McCauley.

6. Computers, basically

GIF from "Napoleon Dynamite."

Not only were women programming computers long before "computer programmer" was even considered a job title, but it turns out that they've had a significant hand in damn-near every aspect of the computer since its birth.

Considered by many to be the world's first programmer, Ada Lovelace worked alongside "the father of the computer," Charles Babbage, to create the first computer algorithm in the early 1840s. Likewise, Navy admiral/computer scientist Dr. Grace Murray Hopper is credited with inventing one of the first high-level computer software programs (known later as COBOL) in 1959.

7. The medical syringe

Photo via iStock.

That thing that filled you with white-knuckled fear every time you had a doctor checkup as a kid? Thank Letitia Geer, who patented a modern one-handed syringe in 1899.

8. The Apgar score

Photo via iStock.

Better known as the most common method used to assess the health of a newborn baby, the Apgar score owes its name to Virginia Apgar, an obstetrical anesthesiologist who developed the test in 1952 while working at the Sloane Hospital for Women.

9. The solar-heated home

Photo via iStock.

A trailblazing biophysicist and inventor, Mária Telkes was one of the forerunners of the solar energy movement in 1940s — well, it was less of a "movement" and more of a "thing no one had even heard about." She created both the first thermoelectric (meaning "heat to electricity") power generator and refrigerator in 1947 and 1953, respectively, and in between designed the first 100% solar heating system for the Dover Sun House in Dover, Massachusetts, alongside architect Eleanor Raymond.

10. Stem cells

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Obviously, no person could ever be so bold as to make the claim of having invented stem cells, but Ann Tsukamoto was one of two people to receive a patent for a process to isolate human stem cells in 1991, which is about as close as you could get.

11. Chocolate chip cookies

GIF via "Sesame Street."

With all due respect to computers and solar power, those inventions are significantly lower on the list of Life's Greatest Comforts than chocolate chip cookies are — and in fact, so is everything else. Ruth Graves Wakefield knew this, which is why she invented the first chocolate chip cookie in the late 1930s.

How this woman's face is not carved into Mount Rushmore remains one of the world's greatest injustices. I mean, I can't even think of an invention greater than chocolate chip cookies...

12. Beer (yes, beer)

GIF via "The World's End"

While it will never be known who was the actual inventor of beer, historian and founder of the School of Booze Jane Peyton is one of many who argues that is was women. While conducting extensive researching into the origins of beer for her book, "School of Booze," Peyton revealed to The Telegraph in 2010 that "nearly 7,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Sumeria, so important were [women's] skills that they were the only ones allowed to brew the drink or run any taverns."

It's a theory that seems to align with how the intoxicating beverage has been perceived over the centuries. Many ancient societies typically depicted beer as being a gift from a goddess — in Sumerian culture, it was Ninkasi; for the Egyptians, it was Tenenet and Nephthys; and in Zulu mythology, it was Nokhubulwane. The list goes on.

It is said that "behind every great man is a great woman," but when looking over this list of inventions, it feels like it might be time to update that maxim, no?

Let's give it a couple of tries:

"Behind every great man ... is a shadow of where a woman maybe used to stand until she decided to do her own thing."

"Behind every great man ... is an even greater woman holding a beer and a cookie THAT SHE INVENTED."

I kind of like that last one.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less