May 17 - Happy Birthday, Mary Kenner

Posted on May 17, 2020

When you hear that someone "came from a family of inventors," what do you assume?

I might immediately picture a family living in the early 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution...A family with a father who invents stuff in a barn or shed while the mother does the less glamorous heavy labor of running a household...And maybe several sons tinkering alongside their father, and eventually becoming inventors in their own right.

How'd I do?

Okay, first off, that assumption doesn't mention race, but IF the family lived comfortably together in the early 1800s, in the U.S., tinkering and inventing, it was likely a white family.

As soon as I started reading about Mary Kenner's family, I read that this family was Black. Mary Davidson Kenner was born in North Carolina in 1912, and during her lifetime, her father (Sidney Nathaniel Davidson) invented a travel-sized clothing press, a stretcher with wheels, a window washer for trains, and a light signal for trains.

Unfortunately, American society was even more racist then than it is now, and Davidson had some tough times making money off his inventions. One invention was actually stolen from him! 

Kenner's sister invented and sold board games.

Kenner became a florist, wife of a boxer, and foster parent to FIVE boys! Wow! She had four flower shops in the Washington D.C. area.

And she was an inventor.

Mary Kenner shared a patent with her sister for a toilet tissue holder. She was the lone owner of patents for a back washer and a carrier attachment for a walker. She was MOST known for inventing a sanitary belt with a moisture-proof pocket that would hold a sanitary napkin.

Getting a patent costs money. Kenner worked and saved up to patent her sanitary belt, and then she contacted companies that might manufacture her invention. She actually found a company, Sonn-Nap-Pack, that was very interested! Hooray!

But then Sonn-Nap-Pack discovered that Kenner was black, and they said "no thanks" to her invention.

Boo! Hiss!

Some time after that, Kenner's patent expired, and her invention became public domain, and then everyone could make her sanitary belt.

Apparently, people made money off of Kenner's invention. OTHER people. Mary Kenner herself never made a dime for this invention.

Again, boo, hiss!

No comments:

Post a Comment