As I was making some minor adjustments to our home security system recently with my grandson, he mentioned that the first home security system was invented by a woman. I said to him, “How do you know something like that?” He responded that his 7th grade history class had to do a report about mothers who have made a change in the world, and he found out that Marie Van Brittan Brown (October 30, 1922 – February 2, 1999) invented the first home security system.  

The story starts out in which both Marie and her husband Albert had irregular work hours. Marie was a nurse who worked days, while her husband Albert was an electrician who worked nights. Because of their different work schedules, there were many nights when Marie was left alone with their children at home. Due to a high neighborhood crime rate, Marie decided to create a security system to protect their home and themselves.  

When Marie and her husband first came up with their security system, their invention consisted of four peepholes at various locations at the front door and entrance, a sliding camera, TV monitors, and a microphone. The camera would move from peephole to peephole and was connected to TV monitors inside her home. The TV monitors allowed her to see who was at the door without opening it, while the microphone allowed her to speak to whoever was outside, again without having to open the door.

On August 1, 1966, Marie and her husband submitted a patent application for their invention. It would be the first of its kind and her husband’s name was below hers. The patent was granted by the government on December 2, 1969. Four days later, the New York Times ran an article about their invention.

As you can imagine, there are a countless number of mothers whose inventions and innovations have contributed to our communities, country, and the world. Unfortunately, we never hear about them. So, in view of Mother’s Day, in addition to Marie Van Brittan Brown, here is my list of five other mothers who changed the world.

1)  Josephine Cochran (March 8, 1839 – August 3, 1913) – Cochran was an American inventor who created the first high water pressure dishwashing machine in 1886. This is the woman you can thank for keeping us from having to wash every dish by hand. She originally came up with the idea of a mechanical dishwasher that would hold dishes in a rack while pressurized water sprayed them clean. Her company was sold after her death in 1926 to KitchenAid, which is now part of Whirlpool Corporation.

2)  Mary Anderson (February 19, 1866 – June 27, 1953) – Like many great inventors, Anderson wanted to solve a problem. She saw how unsafe it was to drive in bad weather when she visited New York City in 1902 and rode a trolley car in falling sleet. Observing how the trolly driver had to constantly look out of the side window to see where he was going, she quickly came up with a working model that used a lever inside the car to control a rubber blade on the windshield. Though she had trouble selling her invention at first, eventually Cadillac included her invention on its vehicles in 1922.

3)  Vesta Stoudt (April 13, 1891 – May 9, 1966) – During the Second World War, Stoudt (whose own sons were in the military) worked at the Green River Arsenal Plant in Amboy, Illinois packing ammunition boxes. She recognized that the way ammunition boxes were sealed made them difficult for soldiers to open in a hurry. She suggested to her bosses that a strong cloth tape to close the seams with a tab at the end of the box to open it up would work much better. Unfortunately, they were not impressed. Not to be deterred, Stoudt wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 10, 1943, explaining the problem and offered a solution.

Roosevelt was so impressed that he immediately approved the idea and subsequently sent it to the War Production Board, which wrote back to Stoudt informing her that the Ordnance Department approved the change with the comment that the idea is of exceptional merit. Subsequently, the Revolite Corporation (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) was ordered to create the product.

Vesta Stoudt received the Chicago Tribune’s War Worker Award for her idea and for her persistence in pursuing it. At the time of her passing in 1966, Vesta Stoudt was the mother of 5 children (she had a total of 8), 20 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren.

4)  Hedy Lamarr (November 9, 1914 – January 19, 2000) – You may know Hedy Lamarr as a glamorous film star, but did you know she also worked to improve torpedo technology in WWII? A gifted mathematician and engineer, she worked with a music composer to develop the idea of “frequency hopping,” which would encrypt torpedo control signals. This technology was able to prevent enemies from forcing Allied torpedoes to go off course. Even more impressively, the type of technology she developed ended up being the foundation for many modern-day inventions, including Wi-Fi and GPS.

5)  Bessie Blount Griffin (November 24, 1914 – December 30, 2009) – Griffin was an American writer, nurse, physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist. In reading over this woman’s accomplishments, she is in my view a humanitarian summa cum laude. For example, during her career as a physical therapist after World War II, many soldiers returned as amputees after being wounded in combat. As a part of Griffin’s physical therapy exercises, she taught veterans who had lost the ability to use their hands, new ways to perform everyday tasks by substituting the use of their teeth and feet. 

Griffin was a physical therapist to Thomas Edison’s son; Theodore Miller Edison and they became close friends. During their friendship, she invented a disposable emesis basin. The basin was a kidney-shaped disposable cardboard dish made from flour, water, and newspaper that was baked until the material was hard.

While working at the Bronx Hospital in New York, at 37 years old, Griffin invented an electric self-feeding apparatus for amputees. She used plastic, boiling water to mold the material, a file, ice pick, hammer, and some dishes to create a prototype of her invention. The device had a tube to transport individual bites of food to the patient’s mouth. The patients would bite down on the tube and then the next portion of food would dispense to the mouthpiece from the attached machine. This allowed patients to control how much they would eat without assistance from others. A part of the device was patented in 1948.

Griffin’s other innovations included:

● Electronic Urinary Incontinence Device

● Improvements to the Embolectomy (removal of blood clots) Procedure

● Improvements to the Aero Medical Evacuation of Wounded Soldiers

So, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, let’s keep in mind that countless mothers have not only contributed to the well-being of our world with their motherly tenderness, love, and care, but through their inventions have made it a much better place to live.

To all mothers, wishing you a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Nancy Seiverd

CMI Credit Mediators, Inc. 

All Rights Reserved

Image by 

Sign Up for Our Free Monthly Newsletter – COLLECTION CONNECTION!

    Share This

    Share this post with your friends!