On May 5, 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman to receive a patent in the United States. (It was for her technique of weaving straw with silk.) Of course, women inventors existed before this time, but the property laws in many states made it illegal for women to own property on their own. This led some women to apply for patents in their husbands’ names if they decided to apply at all.
As of last year, only 10% of U.S. patent holders were women, although women account for half of doctoral degrees in science and engineering. This disparity is due in part to the the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office being more likely to reject patents with women as sole applicants. Further, when patents sought by women are approved, they are more likely to have added parameters that made the description of the patents far more detailed. These revisions tend to lower the scope of the patent, making it weaker and less valuable.
It’s no secret that women face more scrutiny in STEM fields, which is why the women on this list have more to be congratulated on than their inventions. They are pioneers in their fields — some of them were kids when they invented their first product — and have often overcome tougher hurdles based on their sex than their male counterparts.
Though women patent holders have increased fivefold from 1977 to 2016, there’s still a long way to go before women are fairly represented as innovators in their fields.
To compile a list of 50 things people never knew were invented by women, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed over a dozen news reports and historical articles on inventions, both by men and women, that changed history. And here is a list of great inventions we no longer use.