A Woman to Know: Mary Beatrice Kenner

Every person is born with a creative mind. — Mary Beatrice Kenner

Every person is born with a creative mind. — Mary Beatrice Kenner

(image via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

When Mary first got her period, women didn’t have many products to choose from. Those who could afford it “took ill” during their time of the month; others who had to work balled up cloth or rags, but these makeshift pads often chafed and scratched.

In 1954, Mary experimented with a new gadget that could help secure disposable pads to women’s undergarments. She tried to shop her product around to different stores and companies, but she realized she was being rejected more often for her race than for the merits of her invention.

Finally, in 1956, having saved the money necessary to update her patent, Mary’s “sanitary belt” design was approved by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. But it wouldn’t go into production until the 1980s, when period products could finally escape the stigma that kept them off store shelves.

But after her success with the belt, Mary didn’t stop there. Between 1956 and 1987, she received five more patents for household gizmos. She and her sister, an inventor of board games, collaborated on another invention that’s still in use today: the toilet paper holder.

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