8 Black Female Inventors Who Will Inspire You to Think Big

MAKERS
MAKERS highlights the African-American female inventors who change the way we live today.
MAKERS highlights the African-American female inventors who change the way we live today.

Girls and women are given increasing opportunities to invent using code, 3D printing, and crowdsourced information. In 2013, seven-year-old Zora Ball became the youngest person to create a mobile game app. 20-year-old Maddy Maxey works at the intersection of fashion and technology, and she's creating responsive clothing that will help keep people warm.


Creative young women like Zora and Maddy are preceded by an older group of inventive women, and for Black History Month, we're highlighting African-American female inventors who change the way we live today. Learn about their accomplishments.

Madame C.J. Walker

CIRCA 1914:  Madam C.J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove) the first female self made millionaire in the world poses for a portrait circa 1914. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
CIRCA 1914: Madam C.J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove) the first female self made millionaire in the world poses for a portrait circa 1914. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Madame C.J. Walker invented hair care products for African American women and traveled the country promoting her brand. Through calculated marketing, Walker became one of America’s first self-made female millionaires.

Dr. Patricia Bath

attends the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the NYU Paulson Auditorium on April 27, 2012 in New York City.
attends the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the NYU Paulson Auditorium on April 27, 2012 in New York City.

Dr. Patricia Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, a tool that corrects cataracts during eye surgery. Cateracts are an eye condition that can lead to blindness, and Bath’s tool provided a less invasive, safer method of removing them. When she patented the laser in 1988, Bath became the first black female doctor to secure a medical patent.


Marie Van Brittan Brown

 Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first closed circuit TV security system in 1966.
Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first closed circuit TV security system in 1966.


Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first closed-circuit TV security system in 1966.

Miriam Benjamin

Miriam Benjamin
Miriam Benjamin

Miriam Benjamin was the second black woman to receive a patent in 1888, for an invention she named the Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. Hotel customers could push a button on their chair, illuminating a light to let the wait staff know they wanted service. The Gong and Signal was eventually adapted for use in the US House of Representatives as well as airplanes - when you signal flight attendants that you need something, you're using the Gong and Signal!

Sarah Boone

Sarah Boone (Credit: The Root)
Sarah Boone (Credit: The Root)

Sarah Boone improved the ironing board, making it better suited for ironing the sleeves and bodies of women’s clothes.

Sarah Goode

Sarah Goode became the first black woman to receive a patent after she invented the Folding Cabinet Bed (a predecessor of the sofa bed). Image via BET
Sarah Goode became the first black woman to receive a patent after she invented the Folding Cabinet Bed (a predecessor of the sofa bed). Image via BET

Sarah Goode became the first black woman to receive a patent after she invented the Folding Cabinet Bed (a predecessor of the sofa bed). When it folded up, the Cabinet Bed became a desk with compartments for stationery.

Alice Ball

Alice Ball
Alice Ball

Alice Ball was a chemist who developed an injectable oil extract that was the most effective treatment of leprosy until the 1940s. More about Alice.

Janet Emerson Bashen

Janet Emerson Bashen
Janet Emerson Bashen

Janet Emerson Bashen patented a software program that assists with web-based equal employment opportunities. She also founded a human resource consulting firm that focuses on equal employment opportunity compliance.

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