A day without women would also be a day without beer, good coffee, and WiFi. Your hair would be a tangled mess and you’d still be dealing with soggy cloth diapers. Frankly, without the contributions of women, life would be less convenient, less evolved, and definitely a lot less fun. In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating 12 female inventors, entrepreneurs, and creators who brought us everything from seriously groundbreaking innovations to daily necessities to fun guilty pleasures.
Love sipping a cold beer on a hot day? While men may be the target demographic for most beer ads, we have women to thank for those tasty ales. According to research by historian Jane Peyton, the earliest evidence of beer in Britain dates back thousands of years, when beer was made within the home and women were the primary brewers. We’ll cheers to that!
Before you complain that your WiFi is slow, think about the decades of innovation that went into it. WiFi wouldn’t be possible without actress Hedy Lamarr, who grew bored of Hollywood and spent her time doing science experiments. In an effort to help the Allies during World War II, Hedy presented the US Navy with a patent on a spread-spectrum radio, which is seen as a precursor to today’s WiFi.
Though we don’t know who came up with the original brush or comb, we do know who patented the first hairbrush, and it was — you guessed it — a woman. Lyda Newman, a black woman living in Manhattan at the time of her invention, pioneered the use of synthetic bristles with her patent filed in 1898.
Love it or hate it, no one can argue that Monopoly has staying power. The game was invented by a woman, but a man took the credit. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie came up with the first version, patenting it in 1903, and 30 years later, Charles Darrow would take Magie’s idea, tweaking it to be more similar to the game we know today. He sold it to Parker Brothers in 1935.
Thursday Night TV
Without women, we wouldn’t have the safe, soapy haven of TGIT. Though we’ve seen many excellent Thursday night TV lineups over the years, we owe the current iteration to women and to the strong female characters created by Shonda Rhimes. In fact, many of your current and former favorite TV shows were created by female showrunners. Without them, you also wouldn’t be quoting Liz Lemon every day, and you’d have no Gilmores (either one) to look up to.
Your Morning Coffee
The next time you prep your coffee with a fresh filter, say cheers to Melitta Bentz. Thanks to the German housewife’s invention, patented in 1908, we can sip our favorite blends without worrying about gross coffee grinds muddling up our mornings.
With half a billion Harry Potter books printed in more than 70 languages worldwide, it’s safe to say that a large portion of the human population has experienced the magical journey of the child wizard. Without Potter creator J.K. Rowling, we’d have a lot less magic in our lives, and perhaps the only story more compelling than the epic series is Rowling’s own, which includes many hardships, spans several countries, and continues to unfold.
If you find yourself changing a dirty diaper, distract yourself by thinking of Marion Donovan, inventor of the first disposable version. Donovan was tired of coming into the nursery and finding a soggy diaper and damp sheets, so she set out to create a waterproof diaper. Though she patented her invention in 1951, she could never find a manufacturer to buy her design — the men at the companies didn’t find it necessary.
Backstage at Fashion Week, in the suitcases of some of your favorite supermodels, and even in your own makeup bag, chances are you’ll find a familiar pink teardrop sponge. The Beautyblender is a phenomenon. Today, seventeen sponges are sold every minute. That’s even more impressive considering that when the sponge first appeared in stores in 2003, it was basically a one-woman operation: a very resourceful and skillful Latina makeup artist named Rea Ann Silva.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
On a glorious day in 1938, Ruth Graves Wakefield, who ran the Toll House Inn, was about to make her famous butterscotch cookies when she came up with a brilliant alternative. While there are several stories floating around, it is now believed that she grabbed a Nestlé chocolate bar and chopped it up into small pieces for her new recipe. Shortly thereafter, Nestlé bought the rights to the recipe, as well as the Toll House name.
Your Web Browser
The world’s first computer programmer was a woman named Ada Lovelace, and she’s even more of a badass than you might think. She lived in London from 1815 to 1852 and was an influential contributor to Charles Babbage’s trailblazing number-crunching machines. Those favorite apps and websites that you check every day? They’re possible because of her.
Many fitness fanatics (ourselves included) can’t imagine a world without SoulCycle. Those 45 sweat-soaked, spiritually attuned minutes have become an integral part of our regimen, and that’s exactly the vision that SoulCycle’s two incredible female founders had when they created the brand we now know and love. The story of Soul starts at a blind-date lunch, traverses a yellow rickshaw in front of a Craigslist sublet, lands squarely at a cleansing crystal ritual, and has empowered a whole lot of women along the way.