Shannon here: Linda Shenton Matchett shares some interesting research she found when she set out to understand what life was like after the Civil War. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for an ebook edition of A Family for Hazel. Deadline: Nov 6th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Linda:
Female Inventors of the 1800s
During 2021, I moved from writing books set during WWII to stories that take place in the late 1800s. As a result, I needed to do quite a bit of research to understand what life was like for Americans after the Civil War. I was stunned to discover quite a few “modern conveniences” that were invented by women. Here are just a few:
Tabitha Babbitt (1779-1853): Our first inventor was part of the Harvard Shaker Community, and as such she never sought to patent any of her inventions. She is credited with inventing the circular saw after watching men use the whipsaw to cut down trees. Not only was half their motion wasted, but the process was also dangerous. Tabitha proposed a round blade connected to a water-powered machine to reduce the effort. She also made improvements on the spinning wheel head and is credited with a process for the manufacture of false teeth.
Margaret Knight (1838-1914): Her first invention came at the age of 13 when she devised a new shuttle that would prevent injury in the cotton mill where she worked. She later went on to devise a machine that folded the flat-bottomed paper bag (previously hand-folded and expensive), and then had to go to court to win her right to the patent for the machine. She later founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870.
Josephine Cochrane (1839-1913) was a wealthy socialite whose staff broke one too many of her dishes. She set out to devise a dishwashing machine that would clean delicate china without breakage. She succeeded and patented her machine in 1886. Until the invention of the hot water tank, home makers couldn’t use her machine, so she marketed to hotels and other large institutions. She founded Cochrane’s Crescent Washing Machine Company that was ultimately purchased by KitchenAid in 1916. She is still is listed as one of its founders.
Helen Blanchard (1840-1922): For those of you who do a lot of sewing you will appreciate the contributions Helen made to the industry. She patented several inventions related to sewing machines in the 1870s, one of which was the zigzag stitch. The other was a machine that could simultaneously sew and trim knitted fabrics. She ultimately founded the Blanchard Hosiery Machine Company in 1882 and later moved to New York where she continued to invent items such as the pencil sharpener and a hat sewing machine.
Maria Beasley (1847-1904) Born in Philadelphia, Maria began to “tinker” at an early age. One of her first inventions that gave her a significant income was a barrel making machine that was patented in 1878. The income from this invention alone brought her $20,000 per year which is the equivalent of nearly $500,000 in today’s dollars. Four years later she invented a new life raft that folded and had rails to prevent shipwreck victims from falling in the water. Survivors of the Titanic would use this raft in 1912.
These are just a few of the inventions brought about by bright and creative women early in U.S. history. There are hundreds more, many of which would surprise you!
About Linda: Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is a former trustee for her local public library. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors. Learn more & connect:
About the book – A Family for Hazel:
Can a widowed preacher who must marry to keep his job and an alleged thief find true love?
After the Civil War takes Hazel Markham’s father, and her mother dies of a broken heart, a friend of her parents hires Hazel as a companion. All is well until the woman’s lecherous son takes an interest in his mother’s assistant. When Hazel spurns his advances one too many times, the man frames her for theft, and she is fired. As a last resort she applies to be a mail-order bride, and to her dismay, her groom-to-be is a preacher. Will he believe her claims of innocence or reject her as unacceptable?
Olav Kristensen has no plans to remarry after being widowed five years ago, but when the church elders give him an ultimatum to find a wife or lose his job, he advertises for a mail-order bride. The woman who arrives attests she was unjustly accused of robbery at her last job, but when his daughter’s heirloom locket goes missing, he is hesitant to believe his bride-to-be. Will he lose his church and a second chance at love?
Can’t wait for the drawing? Worried you won’t win?
Get your copy now! A Family for Hazel – Amazon
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Question for Readers: What is one invention (listed here or not) you wouldn’t want to go without?
Come back Nov 2nd for Katy Lee!