Feminine Ingenuity: How Women Inventors Changed America

Feminine Ingenuity: How Women Inventors Changed America

by Anne Macdonald
     
 

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"What useful things have American women conceived of and developed that have contributed to the progress of technology, science, and engineering?" Raise that question, even among educated feminists of the 1990s, and you are likely to be met with a fumbling for names. Raise it among the skeptics of women's creative talents and they will reply "Where, after all, is the

Overview

"What useful things have American women conceived of and developed that have contributed to the progress of technology, science, and engineering?" Raise that question, even among educated feminists of the 1990s, and you are likely to be met with a fumbling for names. Raise it among the skeptics of women's creative talents and they will reply "Where, after all, is the historical record?" "In the Patent Office", replies historian Anne L. Macdonald, author of Feminine Ingenuity. In her engaging and meticulously researched history of American women inventors, she presents not only the official evidence of women's remarkable achievements contained in two centuries' worth of Patent Office archives, but also a wealth of material she has discovered in unofficial contemporary accounts of women's inventions: magazines, journals, lectures, major fairs and expositions, and the manuscripts of several important inventors. Feminine Ingenuity celebrates the achievements of women inventors from Mary Kies, whose 1809 patent for a method of weaving straw was the first issued to a woman, to Gertrude Elion, the Nobel Prize Laureate whose anticancer drugs led to her 1991 election as the first woman in the Inventors Hall of Fame. It is not, however, a litany of accomplishments of previously unsung individual women, for Macdonald doesn't ignore the downside of women's struggle. Society, with its relentless assignment of females to the domestic sphere, discouraged mechanically talented girls by barring them from the kind of technical education it lavished upon their brothers. It took the Civil War and the consequent absence of their men to force these alumnae of required cooking and sewing classes to learn notonly to operate farm machinery but to invent major improvements to it. By presenting women inventors against such a historical backdrop, Macdonald keys their experiences to the larger themes of women's changing economic, political, and social position. This makes Feminin

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
YA-- Since Mary Kies (inventor of a straw-weaving process for hat making) became the first female patentee in 1809, American women have developed an astonishingly wide range of devices and products, from pyrotechnic night signals, the Snugli, and brassieres, to Stove Top Stuffing and the anti-herpes drug Zovirax. Limited solely to those who applied for and were granted patents, this well-documented chronology describes not only the inventions themselves, but also the social milieu, the setbacks, and the successes of the women who designed them. By choosing this informative format, MacDonald has done more than merely tell the story of a lot of inventions; she has penned a readable and unique social history of American women. Frequent quotations from diaries, letters, and other documents along with numerous black-and-white illustrations make this book an excellent resource.-- Carolyn E. Gecan, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Booknews
Chronicles women's patented inventions, beginning with the first patent obtained by a woman (in 1809). Discusses some of the economic, political, and social obstacles, and sets the women and their inventions in historical context. The bibliography is extensive. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345383143
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1994
Pages:
540
Sales rank:
1,209,074
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)

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