A Tribute to Women Who Invent And Inspire

Stephanie Kwolek, Inventor of Kevlar

Stephanie Kwolek, Inventor of Kevlar

As part of our bi-weekly BlogTalkRadio show, The View From Under The Bus, my cohosts and I do a Women’s Herstory segment. The first show in March, Women’s History Month, was a special one: We had a game show, during which we quizzed our brave contestants, testing their knowledge of womens’ accomplishments and contributions within all sectors of society. I learned so much from our show, and although I knew quite a few of the political and artistic women we profiled, I must admit that I would have gotten every question wrong regardingย women inventors.

For example, did you know that a woman named Josephine Cochran invented the dishwasher in 1893, and founded the company that eventually became KitchenAid? Did you know that a woman named Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper in 1903? Did you know that a woman named Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, the fabric used in bulletproof vests,ย in 1966?

Well, I didn’t either, but now I do – and so do you!

Is there a special woman in your life, one whom you’d like to salute today? An inventor, a relative, a friend, a shero?

Let’s talk about them now, these women who invent and inspire; because really, where would we be without them?

Please share your stories in comments.

Cross-posted at Partizane


47 responses to “A Tribute to Women Who Invent And Inspire

  1. I’ll go first.

    One of my Sheros is my mother. She and I had a very difficult relationship for most of my life. It was mostly because she was afraid of not being good enough for me, of messing up my life. Then, one day she got the news: She had breast cancer.

    At first it seemed she was going to be fine, but it turned out that the doctors had underestimated the strength of the disease. Eventually, she was told she had no more than a year and a half to live.

    When my mother got this news, she realized that the worst had now happened, and that she had nothing left to fear. Her true generous, caring nature fully emerged for the first time, and she was able to show her friends and family the complete range of her wisdom, her wicked sense of humor, and most of all, her warm, loving heart. She worked hard on renewing and healing all her important relationships, and gave and got support from friends, old and new. She passed away in 1996, as peacefully as a person with cancer can, surrounded by family and friends.

    For her strength and grace in adversity, my mother is, and will always be, my Shero. She has been gone for 13 years now, but she will never leave my heart.

  2. I would like to pay tribute to my mother, who has given me the gift of always being able to laugh in the face of adversity.
    She was an artist, an oil painter primarily, with a MFA. She taught art at the college level and then later in the public schools.
    She was a great beauty as well. In her youth, people often compared her to Rita Hayworth.
    Today, she is in a nursing home with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands are so crippled and deformed, she can no longer hold a paintbrush. But she still retains her marvelous spirit and sense of humor.
    I love you, Mama. You are my inspiration.

  3. Thank you, Beata! That was beautiful, and these days, your mother’s gift is desperately needed.

    And by the way – GREAT avatar. Ingrid Bergman was an amazing woman too!

  4. Madamab, your tribute to your mother was extremely touching.

    This is my first time posting here but I see several familiar names ( and faces ).

  5. My mom too has always been my rock. Someone I knew who always always had my back.

    Luv ya Mum!

  6. Thank you, Beata. I believe I’ve seen “your” face (and name) before as well.


  7. Three Wickets

    Well I had a wonderful catch up with my mother yesterday. Her patience, wisdom, courage and capacity for love never cease to amaze. My father is not exactly chicken liver either. But mom’s the bomb.

    There are so many women in history or alive today to respect and admire, those known to me and far more unknown to me. Politics has been on the mind of late, so Hillary is always a beacon. But if I had to pick one person recently who has moved me beyond where I had been, I would like to remember and honor Stephanie Tubbs Jones. I think of her all the time.

  8. Good on ya, taggles! I’m sure your Mom is very proud of you.


  9. TW – Another excellent choice.

    STJ was an incredible woman, and so courageous in her unwavering support for Hillary.

  10. Love STJ! RIP Stephanie……

  11. I always admired Amelia Earhart. Although I am a chicken when it comes to flying. Maybe that’s why! Ha!

  12. Taggles – I worshiped Amelia Earhart when I was a young girl! Brave, brilliant and fiercely independent – what’s not to love?

  13. She is one woman in history that was taught in school.

    I hope students today still learn about her.

  14. I have the best mother evah! But, other than my mom, my inspiration has always been Joan of Arc — she is the patron saint of Orleans and, of course, New Orleans. I admire her because at a very young age she had the courage of her convictions that all nations should be free and displayed unimaginable bravery to leave her safe little village to fulfill her destiny, especially as a woman in the time in which she lived. I’ve also always been drawn to her because of the injustice of her story — the French king, whom she put on the throne, abandoned her to the English because he was jealous of her popularity & the English despised her because a mere woman had showed them up. She was convicted & burned at the stake for the crime of wearing men’s clothing. She met her fate the same way she lived her short life — with bravery, honor & faith. Everyday I wear a ring with a fleur de lis (lily) in remembrance of the Lily of France.

  15. stateofdisbelief

    If you tune in and listen on Wednesday, April 8th at 8:00pm EST you’ll hear all about my favorite HERstory.

    Check out our website for more information:


  16. That is really amazing, Angie. Thanks!

    SOD – Hee! I know who it is but I won’t tell!


  17. SOD — you are such a great PR woman!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. angie do you read your emails on the weekends? if not, you gotta start girl!

  19. taggles — I just got home, give a girl a break! LOL

    I checked it — hilarious!

  20. you gotta get a blackberry or something! ๐Ÿ™‚ Move on into the 21st Century! LOL

  21. garychapelhill

    One of my profs in grad school wrote a book about a strange case of a woman who lived her life as a male conquistador in Imperial Spain. It is a fascinating tale, and the way she stood the rules of the patriarchy on its head is a real inspiration. Here’s a short blurb about her book:

    The Lieutenant Nun: Transgenderism, Lesbian Desire, and Catalina de Erauso, by Sherry Velasco.

    Catalina de Erauso (1592-1650) was a Basque noblewoman who, before taking final vows as a nun, escaped from the convent and spent most of the rest of her life disguised as a man. She lived for many years as a soldier and adventurer in Peru and Chile where, by her own account, she enjoyed some success as a seducer of women. When she returned to Europe, she not only won a soldier’s pension but also-having proved that her virginity remained intact-papal permission to continue to dress as a man. Erauso subsequently became the 17th-century version of a media celebrity.

    It is a very good read. Dr. Velasco is a great Professor, and a pretty inspirational woman herself ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. garychapelhill

    oops MB, can you fix my tags??

  23. Done, Gary!

    That book sounds fascinating.

  24. at first I thought gary was asking you to fix me?!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. Very interesting gary! wow !because she was a virgin she was allowed to dress as a man. I wonder what that had to with anything.

    Sounds like she led an extremely interesting life.

  26. garychapelhill

    taggles, a lot of it had to knew with the notion that sex couldn’t happen without a man. therefore men having sex with other men was easily singled out and prohibited. Women, on the other hand were not even thought to be able to do anything sexual without a man. Sex between women was not technically possible , according to their rules, so could not be subjected to prohibitions and punishments. As long as she was not sinning per se, they could hardly say that the way she dressed was a sin. Of course there are other variables as well. She was quite successful in her exploits and wealth and privilege due to her status in the nobility, which at the time were just as important as gender status. It is a fascinating subject.

  27. that is really quite interesting. I think you have just convinced me to get the book. Do you think I can get it from the library?

  28. angie- I just bought a book about Joan of Arc written by Mark Twain under a pseudo-pseudo-nym. I just started it, but I will let you know how it goes, unless you’ve already read it. I loved Shaw’s Saint Joan, but it has been decades since I read it. By the way, my husband chose my ring- it is beautiful with diamonds flanked by two gold Fleur-de-lis. I was so amazed at his choice, but at the time he didn’t know their significance. They are my namesake!

  29. I wish I had a storybook childhood to share, but my mom was bipolar but untreated so things were a bit confusing to this only daughter with four brothers and no other positive female role models. However, I feel so fortunate that, later in life, my second marriage to be precise, I had the benefit of knowing my now, step-mother-in-law. She is an amazing and stunning woman; successful in her career (very) and yet manages her home and personal life with the kind of class and grace and style that one thinks only exists in works of fiction. I admire her so much and feel so fortunate that she came into my life or that I came into her life or however it all happened.

    Knowing her has changed me in profound ways and I feel fortunate not only that I have known her and have been taught by her, but that I have enough appreciation of the kind of woman she is that I have told her how I feel about her. Ironically, she told me that she has learned a great deal from me. I can’t imagine how that is possible, but that just goes to show the level of class she has. She’s an amazing woman and I think it’s important to sing her praises because she is not the type who would draw attention to herself or accept any accolades.

    She’s not famous, but I sure feel lucky to have known her. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about her. She’s one-of-a-kind.

  30. Thanks for sharing that, Janice, I’m sure it took some courage to do so. My mom was less than optimum as well, although I understand and empathisize with her more and more every day. I have also been blessed with a loving mother-in-law, and we have gotten even closer since my husband passed away. She has gone through many tragedies and has maintained equanimity through them all. I wish she were geographically closer.

  31. woops, empathize

  32. Janicen – so often we find what we need, even if it’s not where we thought we would find it.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  33. Three Wickets

    Bit OT, but I’ve got to say I think the most active and talented American actress in movies out there right now might be Amy Adams. Just back from seeing her in a film that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend (not Doubt). But she continues to deliver amazing performances. Have loved her ever since Junebug, great small film set in rural North Carolina. Speaking of NC, I’m really upset that my team UConn lost tonight to Michigan State. I’ll try and get over it. The Tar Heels will probably win the tournament.

  34. Talented actresses can inspire as well, TW. They often inspire me.


    I’m assuming you meant “Sunshine Cleaning”? I heard it was a bit derivative…and I didn’t like “Little Miss Sunshine”, the supposedly superior original! LOL

    My favorite TV shows right now are:

    1) Breaking Bad – AMC

    Just freaking incredible. Totally original. Dark as hell, though. Bryan Cranston is insanely good, and the actress who plays his wife (don’t know her name off the bat) is also amazing.

    2) Better Off Ted – ABC

    Hilarious comedy about a soulless corporation and a hapless, talented salesman who works there. Outstanding turn by Portia di Rossi, who last week, babysat Ted’s small daughter and ended up using her to fire a wayward employee because she was so sweet and winning that no one could get mad at her. At the end of the episode, di Rossi asks the little girl for her card.

    There’s also a fake commercial for the soulless corporation that is one of the funniest satires I’ve ever seen. The tag line is:

    “Veridian Corporation. We’re Family. Yay.”

    Night all! Thanks for sharing your inspirations.


  35. Three Wickets

    Night MB.

    Actually I liked Sunshine Cleaning more than Little Miss Sunshine, not a sequel. The only connection being the same producers and a similar part played by Alan Arkin. Anyway Sunshine Cleaning is ghoulish, but it’s a soulful leading performance by Amy Adams.

  36. I have been blessed to have had a number of strong women in my life. My number one is my mom. But early on in college one of my favorite professors introduced me to Aphra Behn, 1640 -1689. She was and English poet, novelist, and playwright and is considered the first woman to earn a living as a writer in the English language.

    She is an incredibly important female writer. Answers.com sums it up better than I could:

    Aphra Behn was a successful author at a time when few writers, especially if they were women, could support themselves solely through their writing. For the flourishing London stage she penned numerous plays, and found success as a novelist and poet as well-and through much of her work ran a decidedly feminist strain that challenged society’s restrictions upon women of her day. For this she was scorned, and she endured criticism and even arrest at times. Another similarly free-thinking female novelist of a more recent era, Virginia Woolf, declared that “all women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn,” according to Carol Howard’s essay on Behn in the Dictionary of Literary Biography,”โ€ฆ for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”

    Madamab, she was a playwrite just like you!

  37. Three Wickets

    Edith Piaf inspires.

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  45. Off topic but I saw this over at No Quarter.

    Do you want Obie to control your internet access?


  46. On the topic
    Most women in my family are heroes of mine – I can think of 3 who broke the mold in the society they were and steered the family course on a new, better road.
    Off topic
    The conspiracy set (NWO, 911) got Larry Chin and a few right ideas of Obama – which I cherrypicked

  47. If anyone’s up yet…New Post above!