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Blodgett, Katharine Burr (10 January 1898–12 October 1979), chemist and inventor, was born in Schenectady, New York, the daughter of George Bedington Blodgett, a patent attorney for the General Electric Company, and Katharine Buchanan Burr. Her father was murdered a few weeks before her birth, a crime never solved. She grew up in reasonably comfortable circumstances in New York City, where her mother worked in child care. She attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1917 with an A.B. and majoring in physics. She then undertook graduate study in chemistry at the University of Chicago, obtaining the M.S. degree in 1918....

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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Coston, Martha J. (1829–12 Jan, 1904), inventor and businesswoman, was born Martha Jane Hunt in Baltimore, Maryland (parents unknown). She moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a child with her widowed mother and siblings. By her own account she had a happy childhood, was a studious child, and enjoyed the constant companionship of her mother as well as a lively household filled with her brothers and sisters....

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Crosby, Caresse (20 April 1892–24 January 1970), inventor, writer, and publisher, was born Mary Phelps Jacob in New York City, the daughter of William Jacob and Mary Phelps Jacob. William Jacob, who was independently wealthy, dabbled in business, and the family led a comfortable existence on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue....

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Hicks, Beatrice Alice (2 Jan. 1919–21 Oct. 1979), engineer, inventor, and business executive, was born Beatrice Alice Hickstein to Florence Benedict Neben and William Lux Hickstein in Orange, New Jersey. She often recounted that she was drawn to the field of engineering at the age of thirteen when her father, a chemical engineer, took her to see the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge. Amazed by the structures, she inquired who built them, and upon learning they were designed by engineers, she decided that she wanted to become one as well. As a student at Orange High School, she enjoyed mathematics, physics, chemistry, and mechanical drawing. Her academic interests and professional aspirations, however, received little support from her family, friends, and teachers. Her parents, concerned with having to finance special schooling for Beatrice’s younger sister, Margaret, who was born with an intellectual disability, encouraged her to study stenography instead. Meanwhile, she encountered outright opposition from her classmates and some of her teachers, who made a point of telling her that engineering—where women made up less than one percent of the profession—was not a suitable field for female students....

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Jacuzzi, Rachele (11 November 1886–24 August 1937), inventor, was born in Casarsa della Delizia in northeastern Italy, the son of Giovanni Jacuzzi and Teresa Arman, farmers. After only three years of schooling, he began selling newspapers in the local train station where his father worked part-time as a porter. At age fourteen he began working during the summers at a brick-making factory near Wiesbaden, Germany. At nineteen he was employed full-time as a telegraph operator but soon enlisted in the Italian army. He attended the communications training school in Florence before being assigned to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, an Italian colony in northeastern Africa. After his discharge in 1909, he sold his gold watch and bought a ticket to the United States, where he joined his brothers Valeriano and Francesco picking oranges in Los Angeles in 1910....

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Jones, Amanda Theodosia (19 October 1835–31 March 1914), inventor, poet, and Spiritualist, was born in East Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Henry Jones, a master weaver, and Mary Alma Mott, a woman noted for her powers of memory and “splendid intellect.” Her family, though of modest means, considered books “more necessary than daily bread,” and Amanda, like her brothers and sisters, was reading the New Testament by age seven. In 1845 the family moved to Black Rock, New York, near Buffalo, where Amanda attended classes at the East Aurora (N.Y.) Academy (then the Normal School at East Aurora). She graduated by 1850 and at age fifteen began teaching at a country school, attending Buffalo High School during the summers. In 1854, exhausted from her rigorous schedule and encouraged by her father to become a poet, she abandoned teaching when her first poems were accepted by the ...

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See Kalmus, Herbert Thomas

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Knight, Margaret E. (14 February 1838–12 October 1914), inventor, was born in York, Maine, the daughter of James Knight and Hannah Teal. When Knight was a young child, her family moved to Manchester, New Hampshire. She apparently had very little formal education beyond secondary school, and yet it was at a very young age that Margaret Knight created her first invention. At twelve years old she designed a stop motion device to protect workers in the cotton textile mills from injury. She had witnessed an accident one day while visiting her brothers at work at a local mill. A shuttle slipped out of a loom, piercing an employee with its steel tip. The new device invented by Knight was designed to prevent such an accident from occurring. Margaret also worked in the cotton textile mills until her late teens....

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Barbara Bennett Peterson

Lamarr, Hedy (09 November 1913–19 January 2000), actress, was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Emil Kiesler, a director of the Bank of Vienna, and Gertrude Kiesler (maiden name unknown), a concert pianist. She was of Jewish extraction on both sides of her family, which proved fateful for her life and her career. As a child, she took ballet and piano lessons and was educated by tutors as well as at private schools. In 1929 she studied design in a Viennese finishing school. At ...

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Hedy Lamarr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Leigh, Vivien (05 November 1913–08 July 1967), actress, was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India, the daughter of Ernest Richard Hartley, a junior partner in a brokerage firm, and Gertrude Robinson. The family spent half the year in India and the other half in England until 1920, when they moved back to England permanently. Leigh was enrolled in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton. There she discovered her lifelong passion for acting when, at age eight, she appeared as a fairy in a school production of ...

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Masters, Sybilla (?–23 August 1720), inventor and merchant, was the daughter of William Righton, a mariner and merchant, and Sarah (maiden name unknown). Her exact birthdate and birthplace are not known, but she may have been born in Bermuda. Her name is recorded also as Sabella or Isabella. Her parents were Quakers. By 1687 her father had emigrated from Bermuda to Burlington in the colony of West Jersey, where he purchased a plantation on the Delaware River....

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See Clark, Frederic Horace

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Strong, Harriet Williams Russell (23 July 1844–16 September 1926), agribusinesswoman, inventor, and engineer, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Henry Pierrepont Russell and Mary Guest Musier. Her family moved to California in the 1850s, and Harriet attended the Mary Atkins...