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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.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.