An illuminating and maddening examination of how gender bias has skewed innovation, technology, and history It all starts with a rolling suitcase. Though the wheel was invented some five thousand years ago, and the suitcase in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that someone successfully married the two. What was the hold up? For writer and journalist Katrine Marçal, the answer is both shocking and simple: because “real men” carried their bags, no matter how heavy. Mother of Invention is a fascinating and eye-opening examination of business, technology, and innovation through a feminist lens. Because it wasn’t just the suitcase. Drawing on examples from electric cars to bra seamstresses to tech billionaires, Marçal shows how gender bias stifles the economy and holds us back, delaying innovations, sometimes by hundreds of years, and distorting our understanding of our history. While we talk about the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, we might as well talk about the “Ceramic Age” or the “Flax Age,” since these technologies were just as important. But inventions associated with women are not considered to be technology in the same way. This is a sweeping tour of the global economy with a powerful message: if we upend our biases, we can unleash our full potential.
Katrine Marçal is a Swedish writer, journalist, and correspondent for the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Her first book, Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?, was shortlisted for the August Prize and won the Lagercrantzen Award. She lives in London.
Table of Contents
1 In which we invent the wheel and, after 5,000 years, manage to attach it to a suitcase 3
2 In which we start the car without breaking our jaw 23
3 In which bras and girdles take us to the moon 47
4 In which we learn the difference between horsepower and girl power 71
5 In which a great invention is made in Västerås, and we go on a whale hunt 93
6 In which influencers get richer than hackers 117
7 In which the black swan turns out to have a body 143
8 In which Serena Williams beats Garry Kasparov 165
9 In which we forget to ask about Mary 187
10 In which we decide not to burn the world at the stake 215