When people think of innovators they usually think of creative masterminds who sit all day in a laboratory and specialize in artificial intelligence. There are some folks out there who do program robots and things of that nature, but what about the people who have created those simple items you use everyday and don’t think twice about? Do they get the same level of appreciation? Let’s learn about a few Black Women innovators throughout history who have invented products we use all the time. Scroll to see more.
Sarah Boone (1832-1904)
She was the inventor of the ironing board. Boone was a seamstress and often made dresses for her clients. This profession was popular among women during this time in history and fueled a saturated market for big competitors to steal clientele. Boone realized she would need to make her dresses stand out but wasn’t exactly sure how until she realized a flaw in the dress making process. Seamstresses were ironing their material on wooden boards at the time. Boone thought the dresses would look more presentable if the sleeves were better ironed and the material did not have indentations from the wooden board underneath. That’s when she created the first prototype of the ironing board, using the skinnier end of the board to press out the dress sleeves and placing padding between the material and the wood to eliminate indentation. When she realized this new method was a big improvement to the overall look of her garments, she sent for her idea to be patented.
Alice H Parker (1895-Unknown)
She was truly a pioneer in the engineering world for Black Women. Her background and early life were not documented and much of it still remains a mystery due to the ill treatment and disregard for Black lives at the time of her life. But, we do know that she was the inventor of the gas furnace. During the early 1900’s, furnaces were being fueled by coal and wood which was very time consuming and labor intensive. With Parker’s invention, a furnace not only could be fueled by gas but also provide the home owner with freedom to moderate the temperature of the heat being projected. This invention was groundbreaking but sadly did not get the appreciation and recognition it deserved when it was patented.
Valerie Thomas (1943-Present)
She is the inventor of the illusion transmitter that is utilized in modern surgeries as well as televisions and the creation of 3D movies. Thomas had graduated from Morgan State University with a major in physics. There were very little women going into physics and engineering at the time and Thomas did not have much support or encouragement throughout her educational journey from family or friends. But, her intelligence and love for physics landed her a career at NASA. While working there she started experimenting with different focal points of light and mirrors to later lead her to her invention of the illusion transmitter.