Fun Facts: Epic Women in History – Part 2

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We’re back with another fun facts post on the things women have invented. Our contribution to society is nothing new, but little is spoken of our inventions, particularly those created in traditionally male-dominated fields. Some of them were discredited at the time but fought to maintain ownership of their ideas.

Here’s a look at a few:

1. Tabitha Babbitt

In 1812, a weaver named Tabitha Babbitt took note of how difficult it was to cut wood with a pit saw. To use the saw, two people needed to be on either side of it and it could only saw in one direction. It was too labourous and Tabitha believed there had to be a simpler way to get the job done with less effort. So she set out to design a saw that was easier to use. By attaching a circular blade to her spinning wheel, she invented the more user-friendly circular saw.

To minimize physical effort, this new circular saw was connected to a water-powered machine. In 1948, a version of her saw was built to her specifications and display at a Shaker exhibit at Fenimore House in Cooperstown, New York. Babbitt is also credited with the invention of a process used to manufacture false teeth and an improved spinning wheel head.

 2. Jeanne Villepreux-Power

A French naturalist named Jeanne Villepreux-Power set out to prove that paper nautilus (also known as argonaut) actually grow their own shells and don’t use shells discarded by other creatures. To prove this, she needed to observe paper nautilus over a period of time. So what did she do? She invented a glass aquarium to accomplish this in 1832.

3. Sarah Mather

Sarah Mather set out to design an apparatus that would give people above water eyes underwater. The contraption, the submarine telescope, consisted of a tube with a lamp and could sink to depths of the ocean to investigate wrecks, observe marine life and spy on enemy activity during the Civil War. Her submarine telescope was patented in 1845.

4. Margaret Knight

Margaret Knight was a self-taught engineer who has been called the most famous 19th-century woman inventor. While working at a bag company called the Columbia Paper Bag company in Springfield, Massachusetts, Knight was tasked with folding paper bags neatly by hand. She wondered if there was a way to create an automated machine that perfectly folded the bags. Knight began to experiment with some ideas and came up with a concept of a machine that could feed, cut and fold paper automatically. She proceeded to file for a patent for her creation, which was considered a very bold move for a woman back then.

A man by the name of Charles Annan discovered her idea for the machine and decided he wanted to claim it as his own invention, claiming that no woman could have come up with such an efficient apparatus. Knight defended the ownership of her bag machine idea in court. She had receipts and showed her detailed blueprints. Since Annan did not have anything to show for his invention, he was quickly dismissed as a fraud. Margaret received her full patent in 1871.

5. Ellen Fitz

The globe we all remember from the classroom was invented by Ellen Fitz, a tutor in Canada. In 1875, she designed a globe which showed how the earth rotated around the sun each day, and the sun’s path throughout the year.

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