Lemelson Center Moves Women Inventors to the Front in New Display

Smithsonian Gallery To Highlight Women’s Inventions
September 14, 2018

The word “inventor” may conjure images of men like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, but the history of women inventors is as long as that of their male counterparts. “The Inventive Minds: Women Inventors” exhibit illustrates the creativity of women inventors over more than a century.

Opening to the public Sept. 19, the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation’s Inventive Minds gallery will showcase objects from the National Museum of American History’s collection to share the stories of women inventors from an extensive range of fields, such as an original shop sign advertising the inventions of Madam C.J. Walker, an African American inventor who created a highly successful business with her line of hair-care products; a phototherapy mask for premature babies, invented by neonatal intensive care nurse Sharon Rogone, who invented medical supplies specifically for premature babies; and Pro skateboarder Cindy Whitehead’s skateboard, whose brand, “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word,” is empowering girls and women in action sports.

This “Inventive Minds: Women Inventors” exhibit is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. The initiative is a comprehensive program aimed at documenting, researching, collecting, displaying and sharing the compelling story of women, deepening understanding of women’s contributions to the nation and the world. More information about the initiative is available at https://womenshistory.si.edu.

Inventive Minds, a gallery within the Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation and adjacent to “Places of Invention,” introduces visitors to the mission and work of the Lemelson Center, particularly its efforts to document invention. Brief video interviews, complemented by archival materials and artifacts, put the focus on the inventors and their processes, telling their stories in their own words. The gallery also highlights the inventive creativity of Jerome Lemelson, and the vision of Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in founding the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian in 1995.

The theme of Inventive Minds changes annually, with new materials rotated in every four months.

The Lemelson Center has led the study of invention and innovation at the Smithsonian since 1995. The center’s activities advance scholarship on the history of invention, share stories about inventors and their work and nurture creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation and located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit invention.si.edu.

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