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BellaOnline's History Editor


African-American Women Inventors

Guest Author - Vance Rowe

Did you know that African-American women were the inventors of some of the household things that most of use every day? In celebrating Black History month, let’s take a look at some of them.

In 1966 an African-American woman named Marie Van Brittan Brown, along with her partner, Albert Brown, developed what is known as the precursor to the home security system. It was a closed-circuit television system that also utilized a remote control to unlock a door.

Brown’s closed circuit system utilized a set of four peep holes and a camera that could slide up and down to peer out each one and anything the camera picked up would then appear on a monitor. This kind of security system was unheard of at the time and she applied for an invention patent for the system. This system was the first in a series of home security systems that continue to inundate the market today.

Sarah Boone was another African-American inventor who applied for and received a patent for the ironing board. Ms. Boone was one of the first African-American women ever to receive a patent for an invention. In her patent application, she wrote, “to produce a simple, cheap, convenient and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in the ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.” Born in the deep south during the mid-1800’s, Sarah Boone was living in New Haven, Connecticut when she received her patent. Ms. Boone died in 1900. Eight years after receiving the patent.

Although the previously mentioned Sarah Boone is listed as “one of the first African-American women to receive a patent”, another African-American woman named Sarah was the absolute first to receive a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for an invention. Sarah E. Goode applied for and received a patent for what many call the precursor to the Murphy bed. That is the bed that folded up into a wall in small apartments.

Sarah Goode was born into slavery in 1850 and then moved to Chicago at the end of the Civil War when she was granted her freedom. She would then become an entrepreneur as she owned a furniture store along with her husband, Archibald, who was a carpenter. However, many of her customers were working-class folks and lived in small apartments. These apartments didn’t have much room for furniture and beds. Sarah Goode then developed a possible solution to the problem. She invented a cabinet bed in which she called a “folding bed”. When the bed was not being used it simply folded up into the cabinet and then provided a desk top complete with compartments to keep stationary in as well as other supplies. Sarah Goode received her patent for the cabinet bed in 1885 and she passed away in 1905.

So have a look around your house and at your beauty products and think about pioneering African-American women and men who may have invented them.
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Content copyright © 2018 by Vance Rowe. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Vance Rowe. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.


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