This Mother’s Day, We’re Celebrating These Female Inventors

A mother’s work is rarely done, so the very least we can do is celebrate it. This Mother’s Day, we wanted to give a shout-out to the many great culinary and domestic inventions made by women. Without them, life at home would be that much less sweet.

Nancy Johnson—inventor of the hand-cranked ice cream maker

Hand-cranked ice cream may not seem like a convenience in the age of no-churn ice cream, but before Nancy Johnson came around, you’d be hard-pressed to find ice cream outside of the most luxe of locations—let alone your grocer’s freezer. Chefs had to slave over a freezing pot of custard, scraping and stirring until the whole mix came together. It usually didn’t turn out that well, either. That meant if you wanted even a little, lumpy scoop, you’d have a few good hours of work ahead of you. (Not saying ice cream’s not worth it, but…) Johnson’s hand-cranked mechanical wonder still required a certain amount of elbow grease, sure, but it worked at incredible efficiency, turned out uniformly silky results, and paved the way for even bigger ice cream innovations. So to that, we raise our spoon—before we dig in to a creamy pint.

Margaret E. Knight—inventor of the paper bag

If your mom ever packed your school lunch, thank her, then offer a few posthumous thanks to Margaret E. Knight, the inventor of the first commercial paper bag maker. Knight might even be surprised you picked just that one invention, too, because she was a prolific engineer, designer, and all around problem-solver in her day—this was only one of many achievements. In any era, she’d be something of a whiz, but in the 19th Century, she was easily one of its most famous inventors of any gender. Her legacy lives on today—leftovers, groceries, lunch, and then some would be nowhere without the humble paper bag.


Ruth Graves Wakefield—inventor of the Toll House Cookie

Ruth Graves Wakefield was certainly known in her time for her culinary prowess—she was a cookbook author, a restaurateur, hotelier, and inventor of a then-trendy food that’s still with us today—yet somehow, she still didn’t get her due. No, really. The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie got a single dollar and some free chocolate for her recipe. Chocolate is great and all, but a dollar can’t even buy you one cookie in 2018. So, celebrate her crowning achievement with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. We’ve got just the recipe.

Melitta Bentz—inventor of the disposable coffee filter

What goes perfectly with a cookie? Milk, naturally, or, for us grownups—a nice cup of coffee. Now, Americans have been drinking coffee for centuries, but it used to be such a production. Steaming percolators with expensive and hard-to-clean linen filters ruled the day until one housewife got a burst of everyday inspiration. Melitta Bentz discovered that office blotting paper was thin enough to filter water, and, best of all, easy to throw away after the coffee pot was empty. With one little paper cone, Bentz founded a smooth-sipping empire that still exists today—the Melitta Group is still making coffee filters and single-cup pour overs not much different than their early 20th Century forebears. Our caffeine-addicted souls thank her.

Josephine Cochrane—inventor of the first dishwasher

We thought we’d end this little tribute to women’s many scientific achievements the way that many meals end—with the dishes. We can hear the groans, and so did Josephine Cochrane. Some of them might even have been her own. Legend has it that Cochrane, so infuriated at the end of a dinner party, ran into the streets screaming, “If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself!” With a little mechanical help from an engineer named George Butters, Cochrane started by making individual washers for friends, and slowly built a manufacturing empire. Her invention was a bit ahead of its time—it wasn’t until the 1950s that there was enough dependable running hot water to run the average dish load—but she was the first to cut through the grease. And we really, truly thank her.

Looking for more inspiration?

See what the Plated chefs thank their moms for!

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