Monday, March 7, 2011

Women's History Month 2011 - Civil War "Mothers of Invention"

In celebration of this year's Women's History Month - March 2011 - I thought I would highlight some "Mothers of Invention" from the Civil War; that is, some interesting patent activity among females from 1861-65.

As noted in my chapter, "A Multiplicity of Ingenious Articles: Civil War Medicine and Scientific American Magazine," in Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine (Edinborough Press, 2009):

Especially noteworthy is the fact that women significantly increased their patenting activity during the Civil War. Women accounted for fewer than eighty U. S. patents for all the years up to 1861 but were responsible for nearly ninety patents in the war years alone. To be sure, a good number of these were for household innovations or for items like “Improvements in Corsets,” but they also included an “Improved War Vessel” and many medical inventions, including bandages, salves and ointments, and ambulances.

Persons interested in learning more about inventive activity by women in the 19th century should consult the publications below, which I have found very helpful myself:

Zorina B. Khan, “’Not for Ornament’: Patenting Activity by Nineteenth-Century Women Inventors,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 31 (2000): 159-95.

Women Inventors to Whom Patents Have Been Granted by the United States Government, 1790-1895 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895).

Given the general theme of this blog - I want to highlight some of the medical patents secured by female inventors that seemed to be borne of wartime service or perceived needs:

#37,697 - “Improved Nitrated Mercurial Ointment” - Caroline Learned - Columbus, OH - for "the destruction of vermin which become so exceedingly annoying to soldiers while in the field or camp." (Read full patent here)

#39,460 - "Improvement in Ambulances" - Clarissa Britain - St. Joseph, MI - "This invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in ambulances for the removal of the wounded from the field of battle to safe quarters, where they may receive immediate surgical aid." (Read full patent here)

#47,831 - “Improved Table for Hospitals" - Sarah J. A. Hussey - Cornwall, NY - "long experience as a nurse in the United States Army hospitals." (Read full patent here)

#39,667 - "Improvement in Military Caps" - Sarah Mossman - Cleveland, OH (Read full patent here)

And the most surprising(?!)

#41,167 - "Improved War-Vessel, the Parts Applying to Other Structures for Defense" - Mary Jane Montgomery - New York, NY (Read full patent here)

(In fact, not so surprising: Ms. Montgomery was recognized as one of the few women of her day that devoted her life to invention, and she held no less than four patents among several inventions!)

1 comment:

Linda said...

How very fascinating--thanks so very much for sharing all this!