1809, Mary Dixon Kies received the first U. S.
patent issued to a woman. Kies, a Connecticut native, invented a process
for weaving straw with silk or thread. First Lady Dolley Madison praised
her for boosting the nation’s hat industry. Unfortunately, the patent file
was destroyed in the great Patent Office fire in 1836.
Until about 1840, only 20 other U.S.
patents were issued to women. The inventions related to apparel, tools,
cook stoves, and fire places. Patents are the proof of "ownership" of an
invention and only the inventor(s) can apply for a patent. In the past,
women were not allowed equal rights of property ownership (patents are
a form of intellectual property) and many women patented their inventions
under their husband's or father's names. In the past, women were also prevented
from receiving the higher education necessary for inventing. (Unfortunately,
some countries in the world today still deny women equal rights and an
We will never know all the women
who deserve credit for their creative labor, as the Patent and Trademark
Office does not require gender, racial, or ethnic identification in patent
or trademark applications. Through diligent research and a few educated
guesses, we can identify trends in patenting by women. Here are a few highlights
of recent statistical analysis to ponder, to celebrate, and to give reason
to encourage girls and women to pursue science-, math-, and technology-based
courses and careers.
Today, hundreds of thousands of women
apply for and receive a patent every year. So the real answer to the question
"how many women inventors are there?" is more than
you can count and growing. About 20% of all inventors are currently female
and that number should quickly rise to 50% over the next generation.
The women inventor patent share of annually
granted U.S. origin patents rose from 2.6 percent in 1977 to 10.3 percent
The majority of the U.S. origin woman-inventor
patents are in the chemical technologies.
In 1996, 11.2 percent of the U.S. origin
patent grants which were owned by the Federal Government at the time of
grant included a woman inventor.
In the past 20 years, about 83 percent
of the U.S. origin patent grants to women were for utility patents, 16.5
percent for design patents, and 0.5 for plant patents.
About 35 percent of the U.S. origin
women inventors patents granted during the 1977 to 1996 period originated
from California, New York, or New Jersey.
pages > Mothers
of Invention - A Few Famous Women