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You Can Thank African-American Mary Kenner For Modern Progress Of Tampons And Pads

Today in Black History, let’s take a look back at a woman’s whose name is not one referenced often in households, but whose made its mark in many.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an African American inventor who found a love for innovation at a very young age. Stories about her illustrate a who from a younger age imagined all sorts of household appliances. One story a six-year-old Kenner recalls a time in which the little girl would often wake up to the comings and goings of her mother in the early mornings for her day job.

“So I said one day, ‘Mom, don’t you think someone could invent a self-oiling door hinge?’” Kenner said according to GOOD BLACK NEWS. “I [hurt] my hands trying to make something that, in my mind, would be good for the door,” she said. “After that I dropped it, but never forgot it.”

Kenner ultimately chased her love for inventions all of the way to adulthood even despite the racial prejudices that threatened to hold her back.

According to Good Black News, in 1931 Kenner graduated high school and went onto attend the prestigious Historically Black College: Howard University. Unfortunately, she was ultimately forced to leave because of financial pressures. ut was forced to drop out a year and a half into her course due to financial pressures. Despite the discouragement she might have felt, Kenner held jobs as a babysitter and as a federal employee and pursued her inventions during her spare time.

At the time, as similar to today, Kenner’s biggest obstacle in the way of pursuing her inventions was money. At the time, and even today, obtaining a patent can be extremely expensive. Still by 1957, when Kenner was 45 years old she earned enough money to obtain her first patent, one she had created for sanitary napkins. At the time, when women still used cloth pads and rags for their periods, Kenner imagined an adjustable belt with an inbuilt moisture-proof napkin pocket. The idea insured a cleaner experience with sanitary napkins and worked to ensure that less menstrual blood would leak and stain clothing.

“One day I was contacted by a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea. I was so jubilant,” Kenner once explained. “I saw houses, cars, and everything about to come my way.” A company rep drove to Kenner’s house in Washington to meet with their prospective client. “Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested.”

While Kenner’s inventions never actually sold in stores, her inventions did make an impact. The innovative African-American woman, continued to chase her inventions throughout her entire life and ultimately filed five patents total. That’s more than any other African-American woman in history.

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