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Feminine Ingenuity: How Women Inventors Changed America Paperback – February 8, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Trade Paperback Ed edition (February 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345383141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345383143
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA-- Since Mary Kies (inventor of a straw-weaving process for hat making) became the first female patentee in 1809, American women have developed an astonishingly wide range of devices and products, from pyrotechnic night signals, the Snugli, and brassieres, to Stove Top Stuffing and the anti-herpes drug Zovirax. Limited solely to those who applied for and were granted patents, this well-documented chronology describes not only the inventions themselves, but also the social milieu, the setbacks, and the successes of the women who designed them. By choosing this informative format, MacDonald has done more than merely tell the story of a lot of inventions; she has penned a readable and unique social history of American women. Frequent quotations from diaries, letters, and other documents along with numerous black-and-white illustrations make this book an excellent resource.
- Carolyn E. Gecan, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Macdonald (No Idle Hands, 1988) presents a sprightly, informative chronicle of women inventors in America--a two-steps- forward/one-and-a-half-steps-back history that aptly mirrors the rise and fall of feminist movements over two centuries. American females owe their start in inventing, Macdonald says, to the Patent Act of 1790, created by a new Congress eager to encourage technological progress and to open the patent system to all--including women--on an equal basis. Soon, despite the formidable social, economic, and psychological barriers that remained, patent applications from women began to trickle in. Inventions sprang, naturally, from the environments in which the inventors found themselves--the vast majority of patents for women's inventions were granted for household items, gynecological products, and fashion innovations--though, particularly during wars, when more women ran farms and business, female-invented technical devices useful in agriculture and in battle (including milking machines and periscopes) won patents as well. Macdonald, who herself has received a patent for a knitting device, exhibits humor and empathy when describing others' applications (``spiritualism'' fads led to claims by some that inventions first appeared in divine visions; other applicants, hoping to speed up the slow application process, bombarded the patent office with pleas of poverty or boasts about their products' popularity). She draws prescient parallels between advances by women inventors, who grasped at the right to their own intellectual property long before they won the right to any other, and the state of feminism in their times. But as of 1988, Macdonald says, the percentage of patents granted to women had climbed to a mere 5.6--an apt example, she suggests, of how far the feminist movement still has to go. Captivating history--a stimulating, highly readable contribution to women's studies. (Black-and-white illustrations throughout.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. C. Watt on February 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book does explore contributions by women to American engineering and invention, but it seems to focus on women as wives and helpers of inventors and/or on women who invented "feminine" things like gadgets for sewing and cooking. Few of the women profiled seemed to work in the "hard" sciences.

The prose is not terribly exciting or energetic. I would recommend this book to readers interested in feminism or invention, but I would encourage them to find other sources as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ron C. Hustvedt Jr. on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of my students needed this book for a research project on Madeline Joslyn Gage and her pamphlet titled "Woman as Inventor." This book is a tremendous resource on that pamphlet but also many women inventors, innovators and engineers who are often overlooked, ignored or completely disregarded in other books and resources. Macdonald's analysis is well written and thorough. A must read for anybody interested in learning more about the real contribution women made to the ingenuity of America.
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By RCTX on January 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good read to find out the many contributions Women have made in this development of many items in this country.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, Feminine Ingenuity, is a real page-turner and extremely hard to put down. In the 1800s, girls were raised to be stay-at-home wives and mothers. Apparently, the fathers and husbands had absolute power over women, especially as women could not own property and even had no claim to her children in the case of divorce. Some received no schooling or very little as it wouldn't be needed. It was considered to be disgraceful and "unfeminine" if a woman found a better way to do something and had the defiant nerve to actually want to patent her idea. In her circle of friends, inventing made a woman 'different' and not to be associated with her. At the top of the food chain, patent attorneys charged high fees and the Patent Office was not friendly to women who happened to be creative and smart. When the Womens Suffrage Movement arrived, even they waffled between helping and hindering women inventors. This book lays out what women did invent despite the hindrance of Victorian men. If you like windshield wipers, Kevlar, brown paper bags, a Snugli for holding your baby, hot air ballooning, your dishwasher, hang gliding, Nystatin powder for fungal infections, your electric hot water heater, well-fitting bras, fire escapes, and alphabet blocks for the kids, thank a woman. This book is a keeper.
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