Tarbell_1887_Women As Inventors - WOMEN AS INVENTORS BY IDA M Since 1871 the wonderful Model Hall in the Patent Office at Washington has been in

Tarbell_1887_Women As Inventors - WOMEN AS INVENTORS BY...

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WOMEN AS INVENTORS. BY IDA M. TARBELL. Since 1871 the wonderful Model Hall in the Patent Office at Washington has been in charge of Mr. R. C. Gill. This gentleman, fitted for the position both by his mechanical skill and his enthusiasm, works with rare devotion among the thousands of devices in the department. In classifying and arranging models scientifically, he exercises care and judg ment. In connection with his position Mr. Gill has done not a little special work. One piece in particular, which is still in manuscript and whose statements have never been made public, is of much value. It is "the first and only record of female inventors who have obtained letters patent from the United States fortheir inventions." The record is complete up to December 14, 1886. Mr. Gill gave all his leisure time for three years fo the compilation of this record, with no other object in view than that women burdened by self-support might know what others had accomplished in inventions, and possibly be stimulated to efforts which would save them from overwork and poverty. Certainly he deserves kindly and hearty rec ognition for the service he has rendered. But what does the record show? Three things worth knowing and believing : that women have invented a large number of useful articles; that these patents are not confined to ' 'clothes and kitchen' ' devices as the skeptical masculine mind avers ; that invention is a field in which woman has large possibilities. Popular opinion contradicts all these statements. In a late issue of this magazine, one of our noblest and best in formed advocates for more work and better wages for women, Mary Lowe Dickinson, wrote : ' ' In the field of invention, woman has hardly entered upon her privileges ; for only three hundred thirty-four patents have as yet been issued to women. Out of twenty-two thousand issued last year, only ninety were to female in ventors ; and most of these are for articles of household use." Mrs. Dickinson does not make careless statements. She undoubtedly has as authority the most trustworthy figures yet published. But until Mr. Gill compiled his record not even the half-truth was known. What are the facts ? Up to De cember 14, 1886, there had been granted to women by the United States, letters patent for one thousand nine hundred thirty-five inventions, almost six times the number usually quoted. The first of these patents is dated 1809 and was granted Mary Kies for a method of weaving straw with silk or thread. In 1821, '22, '25, '28, '31, '34, and '41, patents were taken out, one for each year. They were for " hats and bonnets," '• stove feet, " "manufacture of moccasins," "whitening of leghorn straw," a "globe for teaching geography," a " method of manufacturing textile fabric from the external fibers of milkweed," and a "corset." A narrow range? True, and a small number ; but quite as broad as woman's range at that period, and the number compares very favorably with her opportunities.

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