The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > November 2009 > Mothers of Invention
Mothers of Invention

Did you know that screen actress Hedy Lamarr co-invented a "Secret Communications System" to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel? This "spread spectrum" technology was the precursor of what is now used for cellular telephones. Kevlar, one of the modern world’s most readily recognized and widely used materials, was invented by a woman. And before there was Monopoly there was The Landlords Game, thanks to Lizzie Magie.

Mary Petillo, forelady of a Newark, N.J., factory making lamp bulbs and tubes for the Signal Corps. She is also the inventor of an apparatus that prevents short-circuiting during tests of lamps. 1942. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USE6-D-010675 (b&w film neg.); Call No.: LC-USE6- D-010675 [P&P]Sending the first telegram. 1840-1850. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: Posed reenactment of sending of Samuel F.B. Morse's first telegram; Annie G. Ellsworth, Morse and two friends. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-92360 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: LOT 2290 <item> [P&P]

Throughout history, women have contributed immensely to the world of invention and innovation. In fact, women have become increasingly prevalent in the field and are responsible for such momentous advances as windshield wipers, disposable diapers, the first computer language and the Mars Rover. Today, about 20 percent of all inventors are female.

The Library’s Science, Techonology and Business Division has put together a handy reference guide on women inventors and patent holders. It includes select internet resources, journal articles, compilations and books about individual inventors.

Use your observations skills in this matching game to learn more about some of history’s most ingenious inventions.

The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division has selected some images relating to experiments and inventions. Moreover, the Library is home to the papers of Samuel F.B. Morse and Alexander Graham Bell, as well as the motion picture collection of Thomas Edison.