International Women's Day: Home and Construction Edition | Clarendon Homes

International Women’s Day: Home and Construction Edition

07-03-2024 Blog

Happy International Women’s Day! This year, Clarendon Homes wanted to look back on some of the most impactful women inventors for everyday life and the home. From pressing the call button on your mobile to fire safety; these women have had a huge influence on everyday life for many people, their names often lost to obscurity over time.

Josephine Cochrane: The Dishwasher

Josephine Cochrane is responsible for inventing the saviour of back-of-house kitchen workers, the first successful hand- powered mechanical dishwasher. Patenting the design in 1886, Cochrane took her invention to the World’s Columbian exposition in 1893. Here the devices were installed in the restaurants and pavilions of the fair. At the time the hot water requirements of the machine were too much for regular household boilers, but hotels and restaurants were quickly interested. Posthumously inducted into the inventor’s hall of fame in 2006, Cochrane’s creation did eventually make it into the household, paving the way for the dishwashers we have installed in our homes today. Perhaps a more arbitrary choice for this list, Cochrane’s dishwasher was originally intended to make housewives’ lives easier.

Ada Lovelace: Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace was a British socialite turned computer programmer who lived in the 1800s. A self-titled poetic scientist, Lovelace was daughter to the 6th Baron, Byron. Talented in maths and interested in the study of the brain Ada was the first to recognise that one of the first computers, the ‘Analytical Engine’, had applications beyond pure calculation. Although many today like to debate, one of Ada’s seven written ‘notes’ about the computer is often regarded as the worlds first computer programs. You’d be hard pressed today to find someone who doesn’t have a computer in their homes, even if it’s just a mobile phone.

Anna Connelly: External Fire Escape

In between the 19th and 20th century a lot of Europeans and Brits migrated over to America, filling cities like Philadelphia and New York, booming their population. This then led to the cities being rapidly built upwards. However, whilst this was a boost to the economy, public health started to become a concern.  As well as being the first woman to submit a patent in Philadelphia, Connelly invented the external fire escape as we know it today. An iron structure with platforms, ladders and handrails for safety, Connelly’s design saved lives (and money). The invention eventually lead to the fire escapes that we see on many buildings today.

Laila Ohlgren: The Call Button

Perhaps the youngest of these incredible women, Leila was a Swedish telecommunications engineer that invented the call button. Often labelled as a mobile telephony developer with her partner Östen Mäkitalo, Olghren successfully introduced storage of the telephone number that’s dialled into a phones microprocessor, so that connection could be achieved by pressing the call button. A method that was subsequently adopted worldwide. The invention led to Laila becoming the first woman to be honoured with the Polhem Prize from the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers. No more dial up!

Sarah Guppy: Bridge Design

Sarah Guppy was an English inventor born in the 1770s, and the first woman to patent a bridge design . Often incorrectly credited with the design of the Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, guppy patented her idea of a chain bridge in 1811. Heeded by her inability to patent anything under her own name since she was a woman, Sarah often took a selfless route when it came to inventing. Having a hefty hand in designing the Thomas Telford’s Menai Bridge, she waived any fees for the use of her ideas and was often uncredited for her work.

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