Inventions Improving Women's Lives
- The first US patent issued to a woman went to Mary Dixon Kies in 1809 for a process of weaving straw with silk or thread.
- About 20 percent of all inventors are female.
- Hundreds of thousands of women apply for and receive patents each year in the US.
- There are over 50 women named as inventors on US patents issued for CDC inventions.
August is National Inventors' Month. Many inventors discovered, developed, and designed ways to enhance and improve our lives. The twentieth century gave rise to indoor plumbing and the dishwasher; shortened skirts and pantyhose; bobbed hair and the modern brassiere; and women’s abilities to legally vote in national elections and to legally use birth control.
Women and men have witnessed an increase in life expectancy, health, and quality of life due to decades of inventions, scientific discoveries, technological advances, and medical treatments. However, it is still important to take daily steps to improve our health, including eating a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, and avoiding smoking.
Below is a selected listing of advances occurring from 1901-2003 that have benefited women over the years.
1901: A double-edged safety razor was invented. (Non-CDC site)
1908: The first electric
washing machine was introduced with a galvanized tub and an electric
used in treating bacterial infections, was discovered.
1929: The modern tampon (with
an applicator) was first invented and patented.
1930: A frozen
food system that packed dressed fish, meat, or vegetables into
waxed-cardboard cartons and flash-froze them under high pressure was
1932: A defibrillator,
a device for jump-starting the heart with a burst of electricity, was
pentathol was introduced as an anesthesia for childbirth, giving
more women pain relief during childbirth and delivery.
1935: Sulfonamides were
introduced as a cure for puerperal fever ("childbed fever"),
contracted from unsterile conditions during childbirth and a leading
cause of maternal death.
a plastic that could be drawn into strong, silk-like fibers, was invented.
Nylon soon became popular as a fabric for hosiery.
1942: Premarin was
approved by the FDA as a conjugated estrogen treatment for menopausal
symptoms and related conditions.
1950: The disposable
diaper was invented.
1952: The Apgar
score, used to assess the health of newborns, was developed.
1953: The first successful open heart surgery using a heart-lung
machine was performed.
1953: The double helix structure of DNA was
1960: The birth
control pill was approved by the FDA.
Early 1970s: Trans-abdominal
surgical sterilization was approved by the FDA. This procedure
blocks the woman's fallopian tubes, preventing conception.
1976: The currently-marketed intra-uterine device (IUD) for birth control was approved by the FDA. (Non-CDC site)
1981: Assisted reproductive technology (ART) was used to help women become pregnant, most commonly through the transfer of fertilized human eggs into a woman's uterus.
1984: Nicotine polacrilex gum was approved by the FDA.
combined with radiation therapy, was declared an effective breast cancer
1990: The FDA approved Norplant,
a surgically implanted contraceptive under the skin that prevents pregnancy
for up to five years.
1993: The female
condom was approved by the FDA.
1994: The DNA sequences of two genetic mutations (BRCA1
and BRCA2) linked to breast cancer were identified, leading to
the possibility of genetic testing for high-risk women.
1994: Zidovudine (ZDV) guidelines were published regarding use to reduce perinatal human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission from mother to fetus.
1996: The FDA mandated folic
acid fortification in all breads and grains sold in the United
States. The effort was directed toward women in their reproductive
years to reduce their risk of giving birth to a child with certain
neural tube defects.
1998: The first emergency
contraception pill was approved by the FDA for pregnancy prevention
in women who had unprotected sex.
2000-2003: Several birth
control products were approved by the FDA, including a skin patch,
flexible ring, monthly hormone injection, rubber disk, intra-uterine
device effective for five years, rubber cup, and pill taken in 3-month
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Page last modified: March 11, 2010
Page last reviewed: October 15, 2009