A Woman to Know: Marie Van Brittan Brown

With the patented system, a woman alone in the house could alarm the neighborhood immediately by pressing a button … — Marie Van Brittan Brown

With the patented system, a woman alone in the house could alarm the neighborhood immediately by pressing a button … — Marie Van Brittan Brown

(image via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Marie invented the home security system. She and her husband both worked odd hours, often coming home early in the morning or late in the evening, and Marie watched the Queens local crime report with dread. She didn’t trust the police response would be quick enough in case of an emergency, so she began experimenting with a home system to make her feel more comfortable alone at home.

She and her husband filed for the patent together in 1966. But Marie herself masterminded the camera system; the peepholes; the two-way microphone, which allowed her to speak to people approaching the house; and the at-home monitor Marie used to watch the comings and goings of people outside.

She won awards for the home system and was even interviewed in The New York Times, celebrated as a black female inventor. The public reception inspired her later inventions: door locks that could be opened or closed via remote control; push-button systems that could alert the police; and an advanced version of her original patent, today known as CCTV (closed-circuit television).

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