Women's History Month: Sewing

Posted by Dorie Kirk on

Happy Women's History Month!!!! We are taking the month to teach you about eight incredible pioneers in the sewing world! 




Harriet Tracy


Harriet Tracy was a true trailblazer; coming from a family that wasn't afraid to go against the grain. Cousin of William Henry Brisbane, a Baptist minister abolitionist, and wife to New York Knickerbockers player, Cadwallader Colden Tracy.

She received patents for 27 of her inventions ,17 sewing machine patents. Her most popular was the "Tracy Lock-Stitch and Chain-Stitch Sewing Machine" which held her newly invented rotary shuttle mechanism and could hold up to 1,000 yards of thread.

 

Cathrine Griswold

Cathrine Griswold worked alongside the Thomas Paine, then began to create her own corsets. She made many improvements on the corset, all benefiting the comfort of women.

US Patent #56210 included a support for your skirt, giving your hips a much needed break.

 

US patent #116585 enhanced the cleavage and added arm straps to alleviate arm and shoulder cramping.

 

US patent #61825 included a back piece and a belt to assist with overall support and prevent the corset from compressing your lungs.

 

Thanks to Madame Griswold, the corset is now more comfortable! She had women in mind, and wouldn’t allow fashion to harm women’s bodies! 

 THE MET

 

 Sarah Boone

Sarah Boone was born to enslaved parents and wasn't freed until her husband paid for her freedom when she was just fifteen years old. 
She worked as a seamstress, and after becoming widowed, learned to read and write, helping her to become the first Black woman to file and receive a

US patent. 

Her ironing board was invented to iron sleeves and women's clothing like corsets. 





“[m]y improved device is not only adapted for pressing the inside and outside seams of the sleeves of ladies’ waists and men’s coats, but will be found particularly convenient, also, in pressing curved waist-seams wherever they occur.”



 Beulah Louise Henry


Known as "Lady Edison", she has rostered 110 inventions and 49 patents! 
Beulah Louise Henry established both Henry Umbrella and Parasol Company and later B.L. Henry Company.


She created the "Double Chain Stitch Sewing Machine" that went twice as fast and took away the frustration of tangled bobbin allowing seamstresses to work twice as fast. This invention is still used in modern times in manufacturing factories. 


 Helen Blanchard 


A true sewing pioneer, Helen Blanchard starting obtaining patents after her father passed, leaving her family broke. She's racked up 28 patents, most being improvements on the sewing machine. 
Her most notable being the zig zag stitch and buttonhole stitch! 

This is the original that you can view in the Smithsonian. 

 

 Stephanie Kwolek 

Born to two Polish immigrants, Stephanie became a chemist because her seamstress mother told her she was too much a perfectionist to take a career in fashion. 
She took a special interest in polymer chemistry, and while attempting to produce lighter and stronger steel wire in automotive production. One day, a batch of dissolved polyamides produced a milky, runny liquid solution instead of the clear, syrup-thick solution. She decided to save the "mess up" which is now the strongest stiffest fiber known as Kevlar. 

 Hannah Wilkinson Slater

While Hannah Slater was the first woman ever awarded a patent, it was actually published in her husband's name; Samuel Slater. 
Her father was Oziel Wilkinson, business partner of Moses Brown and Samuel Slater running the first water powered cotton mill. 
In 1793, Samuel showed Hannah exceptionally smooth yarn he intended to use to produce clothes. Instead, Hannah and her sister decided to use a hand spinning wheel to spin it into thread, which resulted in thread stronger than linen thread. 

 Hannah applied to the US Patent Office for a patent as "Mrs Samuel Slater" and it was approved in 1794. 



 Mary Dixon Kies

On May 5, 1809, Mary Dixon Kies became the first woman to have a US patent issued in her name! 

Her technique for weaving straw with silk and thread was more cost effective and brought an economic boom for New England. Her contribution was so extreme that Dolley Madison, herself sent a personal letter applauding Mary. 

 

 

 

March is truly a month long celebration for all women, everywhere.

We hope this has inspired you to pave your own way in history!