An acute observation led Mary Anderson to invent the windshield wiper.
The windshield wiper and the dishwasher were invented by women. I didn’t know that until I came across these facts recently.
Mary Anderson patented her invention of the mechanical windshield wiper in 1903.
The idea came to her on a trip to New York City. According to the website About.com: Inventors: “Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers had to open the windows of their cars when it rained in order to see, as a solution she invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle via a lever. The windshield wipers became standard equipment on all American cars by 1916.”
Josephine Cochrane of Illinois invented the first practical dishwasher in 1886. The first dishwasher was patented in 1850 by Joel Houghton but his machine which was a hand-turned wheel did not clean dishes effectively.
The care of her good china led a woman to invent the dishwasher.
There is a twist to the story. Cochrane was not a harassed housewife with a household of children and chores that she had to tackle on her own. She was actually quite wealthy, and invented the dishwasher because her maids were chipping her fine china.
Her invention is described in inventors.suite101.com: “With the help of a young mechanic, George Butters, Cochrane worked in a wood shed behind her home. She measured the dishwasher and designed wire compartments to hold each; plates, cups and saucers. These compartments were then placed inside a wheel laid flat into a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel while jets squirted hot soapy water from the bottom of the boiler and over the dishes. The user had to pour hot water over the dishes for rinsing. Later models included a self-rinse cycle.”
Well, I don’t have a maid nor a dishwasher. (In the US, unlike Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries, only quite wealthy families can afford fulltime maids). And on days when the dishes begin to pile up, sometimes I wish that I have a dishwasher sitting snugly in my kitchen.
It is a pleasant coincidence that I came across these facts as we move towards celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, a day which celebrates the story of ordinary women as makers of history, and the achievements of women.
I believe that each of us is born with our own unique talent. And many of us share this ideal: that every girl and every woman in any corner of the world will have the chance and the space to fulfill her talent or potential.
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