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Mary Anderson
Mary Anderson patented the windshield wiper in 1905.
Picture of Mary AndersonPicture: Mary Anderson
Mary Anderson's window cleaning device.
Patent drawing
Mary Anderson's
windshield wiper
Related History
The History of the Automobile
Women Inventors

By Mary Bellis

Prior to the manufacture of Henry Ford's Model A, Mary Anderson was granted her first patent for a window cleaning device in November of 1903. Her invention could clean snow, rain, or sleet from a windshield by using a handle inside the car. Her goal was to improve driver vision during stormy weather - Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper. 

During a trip to New York City, Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers had to open the windows of their cars when it rained in order to see, as a solution she invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle via a lever. The windsheld wipers became standard equipment on all American cars by 1916.

The automobile gave women ample opportunity for invention. In 1923, of the 345 inventions listed under "Transportation" in the Women's Bureau Bulletin No.28, about half were related to automobiles and another 25 concerned traffic signals and turn indicators. Among these inventions -- a carburetor, a clutch mechanism, an electric engine starter, and a starting mechanism. 

During the 1930s, Helen Blair Bartlett developed new insulations for spark plugs. A geologist by training, her knowledge of petrology and mineralogy was critical in the development of innovative uses of alumina ceramics.

Another woman inventor named Charlotte Bridgwood invented the first automatic windshield wiper. Charlotte Bridgwood, president of the Bridgwood Manufacturing Company of New York, patented her electric roller-based windshield wiper called the "Storm Windshield Cleaner" in 1917. However, her product was not a commercial success.

Continue with >>> The History of the Automobile.

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