Did you know: National inventors month

Janet Emerson Bashen became the first African-American woman to hold a U.S. patent for a software invention in 2006. — submitted photo.

Janet Emerson Bashen is an inventor, entrepreneur and business consultant. In 2006, Bashen became the first African-American woman to hold a U.S. patent for a software invention. Bashen’s LinkLine software is used by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to track claims, manage documents and compile related reports.

Sarah Breedlove developed her own line of hair care products specifically designed for African-American hair, and branded them with her new identity as Madam C.J. Walker. She would later become the first African-American millionaire.

In 1843, Nancy Johnson from Philadelphia patented a design for a hand-operated ice-cream maker.

Margaret Knight invented a machine to make brand new paper bags with a flat square bottom in 1868. Paper bags originally looked more like envelopes. A man named Charles Annan saw her design and tried to patent the idea first. Knight filed a lawsuit and won the patent fair and square in 1871.

In the early 1900s, Lillian Gilbreth designed shelves for inside refrigerator doors, made the can opener easier to use and tidied up cleaning with a foot pedal trash can.

Mary Anderson invented the first manual windshield wipers in 1903. Another woman inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, invented an automatic version with an electric roller in 1917. By the time Anderson’s patent expired in 1920, windshield wipers were cleaning up. Cadillac was the first to include them in every car model and other companies soon followed.

Sarah E. Goode’s folding cabinet bed didn’t just maximize space in small homes. In 1885, it made her the first African-American woman with a U.S. patent. The fully functional desk could be used by day and then folded down for a good night’s sleep. The Murphy bed came along some 15 years later.


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