Honoring Female Inventors

May is National Inventors Month, a month set aside to recognize the curiosity and imagination of people who innovate and create.

Today and for the next two Fridays, I will be highlighting innovative women who have imagined, developed, tested, and perfected their creations.

Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794 – 1871)

The French naturalist started her scientific studies on the island of Sicily. While studying the paper nautilus (an unusual octopus that spends its life drifting the oceans near the surface), Jeanne Villepreux-Power decided to test a popular hypothesis. It was believed that the nautilus took its shell from another organism. She created the first glass aquarium to observe the nautilus in controlled conditions and proved that it made its own shell. She also designed a glass apparatus within a cage for studying shallow water creatures and a cage-like aquarium that could be raised and lowered to different depths.

Margaret E. Knight (1828 – 1914)

A Maine resident, 30-year-old Margaret Knight built a machine that folded and glued paper to create a flat-bottomed paper bag. When the paper bags became popular, a man stole the idea. In court, he argued that a woman “could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities.” Knight won her case and went on to invent over 100 different machines. She patented 20 of them, including a rotary engine, a shoe-cutting machine, and a window frame with a sash.

Josephine Cochrane (1839 – 1913)

After servants chipped her heirloom dishes, American inventor Josephine Cochrane invented a mechanical dishwasher that held dishes securely in a rack. At the same time, the pressure of a water sprayer cleaned them. In 1883, her husband died and left her with substantial debt. Determined to pay off her debts, Cochrane obtained a patent in 1886 and began marketing her dishwasher to hotels. In those days, women did not cross hotel lobbies alone. She later commented, “I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t—and I got an $800 order as my reward.” In 1893, her dishwasher was exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1915, her company was bought by Kitchen Aid.

Mary Anderson (1866 – 1953)

An Alabama resident, real estate developer and rancher, Mary Anderson visited New York City in 1902. When she rode in a trolley car, she noticed the driver had to open the panes of the front window to see through falling sleet. Back in Alabama, she set to work on a solution. Her device used a lever inside the vehicle to control a rubber blade on the windshield. Despite its effectiveness, car manufacturers dismissed Anderson’s invention. One Canadian firm commented, “We do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant its sale.” In 1922, Cadillac became the first manufacturer to include a windshield wiper on all its vehicles. Soon afterward, wipers became standard equipment.

Sarah Breedlove (1867 – 1919)

While working as a laundress, Sarah Breedlove observed that many black women struggled with hair loss and scalp diseases. The reasons: a lack of indoor plumbing and harsh ingredients in hair products. She developed her own life of hair care products specifically designed for African American hair. Hoping to evoke Parisian luxury, she branded the products with her new identity of Madam C. J. Walker. Later, she set up a college to train “hair culturists,” creating employment opportunities for thousands of African American women. Breedlove became the first female self-made millionaire in the United States.

The Road Not Taken

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Sharing one of my favorite poems…

Prioritize Your Peace

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff, I look forward to reading their emails and blog posts. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email:

1. Prioritize your peace today. Some people will never understand, and it’s not your job to teach or change them. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying. Remember, learning to let go of certain expectations and detach from certain people, are two of the great paths to inner peace.

2. If you worry too much about what might be, or what might have been, you will miss what is. Truly, worrying is a misuse of your incredible present potential. So do your best to focus mindfully on what’s in front of you today. Allow yourself to grow from what you’re living through.

3. Breathe deep. Be present. Every day is a series of a million tiny miracles. Do your best to see them. Remind yourself that clarity comes with letting go of what you assume your journey is supposed to be like right now, and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is.

4. As you inch forward, remind yourself, it’s far better to be exhausted from tiny bits of progress, than it is to be tired of doing nothing. Every step counts. Just keep doing your best, and don’t force what’s not yet supposed to fit into your life. When it’s meant to be, it will be…

The bottom line is, a mind well-trained with thoughts like these is one step ahead of the inevitable negativity life challenges us with. And we all need practice—lots and lots of practice. Because truly, the biggest and most complex obstacle we have to personally overcome on a daily basis is our own mind. Let that sink in. You aren’t responsible for everything that happens, but you ARE responsible for gradually and consistently undoing the self-defeating thinking patterns these undesirable experiences create.

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Marc & Angel’s website.

Living in the Moment

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here’s a thought-provoking excerpt from Heather Havrilesky’s best-selling book, How to Be a Person in the World:

Sometimes you have to let go of your shiny imaginary creations in order to give in to the magic of the real world, which is far more glorious and full of hope than it first appears. By filling our heads with fantasy worlds, we not only start to expect too much but we also become easily bored with the real world and its very real magic. Or, we imagine that we can only exist in the real world if we fill our heads with magical distractions. We create relationships that aren’t based on real compatibilities but on the crazy mixed-up tapestries that we ourselves constructed in our overactive minds.

Rich tapestries block out the magic of real moments. Rich tapestries block out real people—love interests, but also other people who matter. Rich tapestries compromise friendships, and they block us from our career goals, and they blot out the sun.

But controlling your brain is not exactly easy. You have to train yourself to romanticize a life outside of the fantasy and create a tapestry that’s just as rich. That requires a buoyant solitude that isn’t easy to achieve.

A few things that will make your alone time more buoyant: Inspiring music. A clean space. Regular, vigorous exercise. Great books. A nice bath. A wide range of beverages in your fridge. Friendly pets. Engrossing home projects. Your setting matters! You have to put a little energy into your surroundings when you live alone.

But this is also about living in the moment, isn’t it? That something we all have to learn to do, whether we’re alone or not. That requires powering down all of the fantastical imagined things few will have one day and just soaking in this moment instead.

Source: How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky

Choose the Right Mindset

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff, I look forward to reading their emails and blog. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email:

Sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible—or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get a new job in an instant. You can’t make someone else change his or her will. And you certainly can’t erase the past. But…

You CAN always choose a mindset that moves you forward. And doing so will help you change things from the inside out, and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control at this moment.

Here’s a powerful question that will support you with a positive attitude adjustment when need it most:

Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you removed the thought that’s worrying you?

Think about it…

Identify a specific thought that’s been troubling your worried mind lately, and then visualize how your life would be different if you removed this thought.

How would it change your outlook on your present life situation?

What other possibilities and opportunities would you see?

What else would you be able to accomplish with this shift in your focus?

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Marc & Angel’s website.

When the Writing Well Runs Dry

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent blog post, bestselling author Sarah McCoy shared the following suggestions for filling our writing wells:

Books. It is our marrow. I’ll be honest, I read very little fiction during my dry phase. I was drawn instead to nonfiction: famous persons autobiographies, biographies, science-based books even. I read new releases and books published sixty years ago. I gobbled celebrity tell-alls, chef memoirs, and everything related to British aristocracy. I highly recommend going old-school: head to your local library and bring home a haul of books. The beauty with libraries is that you don’t have to empty your wallet and you don’t have to read them all. If one topic doesn’t stir the well waters, close it, and move on to the next. The possibilities are endless.

Docufilms. One of my hidden passions. I watch at least one documentary a week. They are the precursor to today’s reality TV craze and vastly better produced, in my humble opinion. I’m a proud donor of PBS and a faithful subscriber to the TCM channel. These are my top two screen resources for historical films. I don’t adhere to a particular genre. I watch a forensic docuseries with as much gobsmacked interest as a docufilm about Oklahoman cattle farmers. Rags-to-riches stories pertaining to all fields are a particular penchant of mine.

Travel. Now that quarantine sanctions have lifted and we’re all safely vaccinating, the world feels shiny new and welcoming again. Simply getting outside of my comfort zones does massive good for the imagination! It allows me to be an anonymous observer—a third-person narrator of a new cultural experience. After all, isn’t writing simply a means of transporting readers to places, times, ideas, and people we want them to understand alongside us?

People. Be a listener. We’ve come through years of masking, self-isolating, and maintaining a six-foot distance. It feels wonderful to be close to people again. I have renewed giddiness standing in line at the coffee shop listening to the conversation behind me. So perk up those ears. Be curious. Ask questions. If you know someone who is an expert on a topic, get in touch! Be willing to talk on the phone, schedule a video call, or walk over to meet them. More often than not, an idea will come through a voice, a character, or a person sharing his/her untold story… because it needs telling.

Read the rest of the post here.

Happy April!

This month’s name comes from the Latin “aperire” which means “to open.” An appropriate choice for a time of revival after a cold winter season.

Here are 10 interesting facts about April:

1. Originally the month had only 29 days. A 30th day was added when Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar.

2. During April, birds migrate north and smaller animals come out of their burrows.

3. The month’s birthstone is the diamond, a stone well-known for its longevity, strength, and beauty.

4. There are two birth flowers for April: the daisy and the sweet pea. The sweet pea signifies bliss and pleasure while daisies represent childhood innocence, loyalty, and purity.

5. People born between April 1 and April 19 fall under the sign of Aries, and those born later in the months are under Taurus. Aries are seen as passionate and independent trailblazers while Taureans are often ambitious and trustworthy.

6. Famous people born in April include Sir Alec Guinness (April 2), Marlon Brando (April 3), Bette Davis (April 5), William Wordsmith (April 7), Loretta Lynn (April 14), Leonardo DaVinci (April 15), Queen Elizabeth (April 21), and William Shakespeare (April 23).

7. After a 1500-year break, the first Olympics of the modern era took place on April 16, 1896 in Athens, Greece.

8. One of the most well-known dates of the month is April Fools’ Day. Some believe the date was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s story, “Nun’s Priest Tale,” in Canterbury Tales. The whole month celebrates comedy: April is National Humor Month.

9. April has also been designated as Alcohol Awareness Month, Financial Literacy Month, National Autism Awareness Month, National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, National Volunteer Month, and Stress Awareness Month.

10. Earth Day is celebrated on April 22. Other April observances include National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (April 2), National No Housework Day (April 7), National Hug Your Dog Day (April 10), National Garlic Day (April 19), and International Jazz Day (April 30).