With March being Women’s History Month, it’s time to spark meaningful conversations with your kids about the importance of recognizing the powerful women who have shaped America’s history. It’s crucial for all kids to understand what it means to be empowered, confident, and secure in their own identity––all inspiring lessons they can learn through observing women’s accomplishments, successes, and legacies. To honor this month, let’s take a look at some of history’s most inspiring women. From pioneering inventors to trailblazing business owners and innovators, there are dozens of inspiring stories you can share with your children. Learning about these female role models is an essential part of teaching children that everyone has a place and purpose in changing the world for the better. There are dozens of inspiring stories you can share with your children.
Four Innovative Inventions Created by Women
Every day, we use a plethora of inventions and technologies without giving much thought to the people who created them. Many of those pioneering inventors are women who faced gender discrimination while pushing the boundaries of innovation. In fact, many women had to file a patent under a male’s name just to be able to progress and make a breakthrough! Their fierce dedication to their mission and their work serves as an example all children can follow.
- The Windshield Wiper- In 1902, Mary Anderson was riding a streetcar in New York City when she witnessed the driver struggle to clean snow off his window with a brush. The streetcar driver had to continually get out of the vehicle to rid the windshield of snow, leading Anderson to believe there had to be a better way.
After some brainstorming, Anderson came up with a brilliant solution – a lever from inside the vehicle that operated a blade outside. She patented her idea in 1903, but unfortunately, no car manufacturers wanted to put her new invention on cars at that time. Nearly 50 years later, her invention finally made its way into automotive history, and in 2001, Mary Anderson was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
- The Dishwasher– It may surprise you and your children to learn that the dishwasher is a relatively new invention, having been around for just over a century! But it sure has made our lives easier, hasn’t it? Josephine Garis Cochrane invented the first version of this handy kitchen appliance in 1886 as a way to prevent her valuable china from breaking while being washed by hand. And although there were already other dishwashing prototypes at the time, Josephine’s was the first to use water pressure instead of scrubbers to remove debris from dishes. Her design also had convenient racks to hold the dishes in place.
Josephine even opened her own factory and established the Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company. Over time, her invention was improved upon, and Josephine’s company became a part of KitchenAid. In 1949, the first KitchenAid dishwasher based on Josephine’s design was introduced to the public! Josephine Cochran was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
- Chocolate Chip Cookies– Ruth Graves Wakefield was a creative, visionary chef whose famous invention brings joy to millions of families (and taste buds) around the world! Ruth and her husband, Kenneth, opened a tourist lodge in 1930 in Whitman, Massachusetts – the Toll House Inn. Renowned for her inventive desserts, guests at the Inn could expect to tantalize their taste buds with uniquely indulgent concoctions emanating from her kitchen.
One day, Ruth was baking some “Butter Drop Do” cookies and decided to add some chopped-up pieces of semi-sweet chocolate that she got from Nestlé. Instead of dissolving into the cookie like Wakefield expected, these morsels stayed whole and created an unexpected delicious treat. This delightful invention was named the “Toll House Cookie” and soon became a household favorite throughout America. Generations later, we still remember Ruth’s pioneering spirit and enjoy her signature treat!
- Car Heater- On cold winter days, it is easy to take for granted how quickly and warmly our cars can heat up soon after turning them on. However, before Margaret Wilcox created a car heating system in 1893, all the warmth a driver and their passengers could hope for was what remained of their own body heat within the vehicle! Wilcox’s invention brought a simple and innovative solution to life—using heat from the car’s own engine to warm the inside.
Vehicles today have more sophisticated climate control systems; however, they still rely on Margaret’s principles of using heat from the engine itself to regulate the temperature inside the car. Our greatest gratitude should go to Ms.Wilcox as she changed the way driving works in the winter – no more shivering behind the wheel!
10 Fascinating Facts to Share With Your Kids This Women’s History Month
- During the Revolutionary War, Deborah Sampson was likely the first woman to serve in the American armed forces during combat. Even though women weren’t allowed to join the military at the time, Deborah was determined to help the country win its freedom. She disguised herself as a man and used the name ‘Robert Shirtliffe’ to join.
- The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was founded in 1942 to let women fill essential roles in the military—including mechanics, drivers, and weapon repairers. By boldly stepping into what was traditionally seen as a man’s role and tirelessly serving their country, these brave female soldiers shattered gender norms and broke down barriers for all women around the world.
- Women didn’t become eligible to serve in combat roles in all branches of the armed forces until 2013. Prior to this, women were limited in the roles they could fulfill within the military.
- In 1840, a major abolitionist meeting, the World Anti-Slavery Convention, was held in London, England, and many women activists attended. Even though the meeting called for ending slavery, women were forced to sit in a special section and not allowed to speak during the meeting. This unequal treatment inspired some of the women to hold a meeting of their own, the Seneca Falls Convention, to talk about women’s rights.
- Rosie the Riveter was an iconic representation of female empowerment during World War II as women were filling many important jobs that only men had done before, like factory work. Despite being a fictional character, Rosie the Riveter has since become a symbol of female strength, solidarity, and patriotism.
- The 19th Amendment gave all American women the right to vote in 1920. This Amendment is referred to as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment.”
- Rebecca Felton from Georgia was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. She was appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy and represented the state for one day in 1922. Although she only served a single day, this was a groundbreaking moment in U.S. history.
- Women’s History Month, founded by the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women in 1978, has grown to an internationally-recognized month celebrating the accomplishments and progress of women throughout history. From its roots in a local celebration, it expanded to a national level when Congress passed a law in 1987 declaring the month of March as Women’s History Month.
- Clara Barton played an integral role during the American Civil War, delivering supplies and medical care to soldiers. After witnessing the destruction of war first-hand, Clara was inspired to dedicate her life to helping others. She drew from her own experiences when founding the American Red Cross in 1881, which aimed to provide aid to victims of conflict and disaster. Her humanitarian efforts eventually led her to be labeled as “The Angel of the Battlefield” for her selflessness and willingness to put others first above all else.
- Harriet Tubman became famous as the Conductor of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists who helped escaped slaves sneak away from Southern states and into Northern states so they could be free. Harriet was an escaped slave herself and wanted to help others. Thanks to her bravery, she led nineteen different escapes from the South and helped over 300 slaves escape to freedom.