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Women's History Matters
8 Womens’ Inventions That Men *Always* Get Credit For
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Contrary to popular belief, women are behind some of the world's most impressive inventions. But, perhaps to little surprise, women don't always receive the credit they deserve. A recent example of this? Dr. Katie Bouman, a 29-year-old computer scientist who recently created the world's first image of a black hole.

People were quick to highlight Bouman as leading the charge for the computer algorithm that made this type of image possible — at first. In the wake of the initial buzz, certain corners of the interwebs (largely led by men's rights activists, shockingly) began to spin a different narrative. The groundbreaking black hole image, they claimed in a viral YouTube video, was actually the product of one of Bouman's male colleagues, Andrew Chael. "Woman does 6% of the work but gets 100% of the credit," the video asserts.

Chael was quick to come to Bouman's defense, clarifying that his female colleague was, indeed, responsible for the image software and calling her decriers "awful and sexist."

"I'm thrilled that Katie is getting recognition for her work and that she's inspiring people as an example of women's leadership in STEM," he added. 

While it's fortunate that Bouman had an ally in Chael, this incident is an example of the way that, for years, women's scientific contributions have been undermined, overlooked, and even stolen. Here are eight inventions women made, but didn't get credit for. Prepare to be blown away. 

1. Monopoly

Elizabeth Magie Phillips is the name behind the family-favorite boardgame, Monopoly. She invented it in 1904, under its original name: The Landlord's Game. But her game was ripped off when Charles Darrow sold what he called Monopoly to Parker Brothers three decades later.

As later printed in the game’s instructions: “In 1934, Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania, presented a game called MONOPOLY to the executives of Parker Brothers. Mr. Darrow, like many other Americans, was unemployed at the time and often played this game to amuse himself and pass the time. It was the game’s exciting promise of fame and fortune that initially prompted Darrow to produce this game on his own.”

The instructions leave out Phillips' contributions. The Parker Brothers actually moved to seize all rights to the game and tracked Phillips down — offering her one $500 bill and no royalties.

2. Bras

Caresse Crosby came up with what we know today as a modern bra. She was tired of wearing corsets, so she came up with the "backless brassiere." However, the Warner Brothers Corset Company bought her patent, so her name is seldom mentioned in tandem with the invention of the bra.

3. Disposable Diapers

Marion Donovan came up with disposable diapers in the 1940s to provide new mothers with more than just cloths. Donovan's first patent was for a diaper cover made of shower curtains, to which she later added buttons. Eventually, she made disposable diapers of nylon parachute cloth, but diaper companies ignored her patent and made their own products similar to her invention. As a result, her name is often forgotten when discussing the evolution of the diaper. 

4. Computers

Contrary to popular belief, the inventor of the computer is a woman: Grace Hopper. In 1944, Hopper designed Harvard’s Mark I computer, a five-ton machine that took up the whole room. In fact, Hopper even coined the words "bug" and "debugging," which she often used when she had to remove moths from the device.

Despite Hopper's efforts, many believe that the first computer that resembles today's modern machines was the Analytical Engine, a device that and British mathematician Charles Babbage conceived.

5. Paper Bags with Square Bottoms

Margaret Knight invented a machine that churned out square-bottomed paper bags in 1868. The machine folded and formed flat, square-bottom bags, but she couldn't earn a patent for it because she made a wood model and a patent required an iron model. While she was working on making the iron model, Charles Annan stole her idea and patented it himself. It was a few years later in 1871 that Knight filed a law suit and won the rights to the machine.

6. Wireless Communication

While the world's first wireless telephone conversation occurred in 1880, when Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter patented the photophone, Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr actually invented wireless communication. During the Second World War, she worked to develop "frequency hopping" to prevent anyone from bugging military radios. While the U.S. Navy ignored her patent, they later used her findings to develop new technologies. It wasn't until years down the line, just before her death in 2000, that she received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Award.

7. Windshield Wipers

Mary Anderson is the woman behind what we now know as windshield wipers. She came up with the idea while riding in a snowy streetcar, and she tried selling it to companies after receiving the patent for it in 1903. They all rejected her invention, but flash forward a half a century when faster cars came into play, and companies started catching onto her idea. Unfortunately, Anderson's patent had expired by then and inventor Robert Kearns took credit for her idea.

8. Hair Straighteners

Despite the fact that Marcel Grateau is often given credit (after all, he came up with the curling iron in 1852), Ada Harris actually came up with the hair straightener. She first earned a patent for it in 1893.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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