Special Report

50 Things You Never Knew Were Invented by Women

Source: Michael Burrell / Getty Images

11. Alphabet blocks
> Inventor: Adeline D. T. Whitney
> Year / period: 1882

Whitney, author of many books for people young and old, patented an early version of alphabet blocks that came in various shapes and sizes and could form letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols.

Source: Panmaule / Getty Images

12. Life raft
> Inventor: Maria Beasley
> Year / period: 1882

Though Beasley had already made a fortune on a barrel-hooping machine patent, this serial inventor went on to design an improved life raft with guard rails that was fireproof and foldable for easy storage. Her life rafts were used on the Titanic and saved over 700 lives.

Source: DanHenson1 / Getty Images

13. Fire escape
> Inventor: Anna Connelly
> Year / period: 1887

Tenement fires were much more deadly before Connelly invented an external metal staircase, the very first fire escape. In addition to saving lives, her invention also precipitated one of the first New York City building codes, which required residential buildings to have a secondary means of escape for emergencies.

Source: LeventKonuk / Getty Images

14. Ironing board
> Inventor: Sarah Boone
> Year / period: 1892

Though patents for folding ironing boards appeared in the 1860’s, Boone’s ironing board featured a key difference: It had a narrow, double-sided arm that made it perfect for ironing sleeves without forming creases.

Source: Cherkas / Getty Images

15. Car heater
> Inventor: Margaret A. Wilcox
> Year / period: 1893

Taking advantage of the heat already generated as a byproduct of combustion, Wilcox invented a way to heat cars by channeling air over the engine and into the cab.