Celebrate Women's History Month with 12 awesome things invented by women.

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.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually "in favor of." No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone's individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

"Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it's at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman's right to have an abortion?" Wallace asked.

Keep Reading Show less

When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


Keep Reading Show less