Today marks American Business Women’s Day, so the team here at Wasp thought it would be appropriate to give you an inside look at some of the most innovative women throughout history. These women took a simple idea and ran with it, giving us some of the most useful, yet often-overlooked every day items. So without further ado, let’s tip our hats to these entrepreneurial individuals.
Bette Nesmith Graham (1922 – 1980)
Graham was a Dallas native and is credited for one of the most sought-after office supplies: liquid paper. Liquid paper, otherwise referred to as “white-out”, was the brainchild of Ms. Graham. In the early 1950’s, Graham mixed a bit of water-based paint in her home blender to match the stationary she was using. The mixture was used to correct any typing mistakes. Surprisingly, her boss never noticed the repaired mistakes. It didn’t take long before her co-workers demanded the same correcting-fluid. As they say, the rest was history. Graham opened her own business, Mistake Out Company, and offices everywhere soon took note.
Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878 – 1972)
Gilbreth was a pioneer in the kitchen appliance industry. Thanks to her creative wisdom and entrepreneurial efforts, kitchens across the United States now include electric food mixers, shelves inside the doors of refrigerators, and trash cans with foot-pedal lid openers. All of these inventions were seen as ergonomic – increasing efficiency and comfort for the user. Later, Gilbreth became an industrial engineer for General Electric, further improving kitchen designs to simplify stoves, sinks, and other common fixtures.
Josephine Cochran (1839 – 1913)
Much like Gilbreth, Cochran used the idea of ergonomics to improve the lives of Americans. In 1850, Joel Houghten patented the first dishwasher machine. This rickety device was wooden and included a hand-turn wheel that would splash some water and soap onto dishes. Gilbreth was frustrated with Houghten’s machine and promised to create a better device. In 1893, she unveiled her new dishwashing machine at the World’s Fair. In 1950, her dishwashers finally caught the attention of the public, and homes across America soon included a self-operating, dish-cleaning machine.
Mary Anderson (1866 – 1953)
Before Mary Anderson, the windshields on early automobiles effectively turned to privacy glass during snow and rainstorms, making it extremely difficult for drivers to operate the vehicle. Thankfully, Anderson had a great idea to include a rubber blade on the outer portion of the windshield that was operated from within the automobile by hand crank – al la the wiper blade. While crude in its infancy, this invention took hold as the automobile industry exploded. So the next time you are caught in a downpour, remember to thank Mary Anderson for her innovative wisdom.
We often go throughout our daily lives, never thinking about how a simple item like “white-out” came into existence. So to all of the hard-working women entrepreneurs out there, we’d like to say thank-you. Your creative wisdom and dedication does not go unnoticed.