Women Inventors
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Mary Anderson - Windshield wiper baby carrier
Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson was born in 1866. She was a real estate developer, rancher, viticulturist and inventor of the windshield wiper blade. Mary was born in Greene County, Alabama, at the start of Reconstruction in 1866. In 1889 she moved with her widowed mother and sister to the booming town of Birmingham, Alabama. She built the Fairmont Apartments on Highland Avenue soon after settling in. By 1893, Mary Anderson had moved west to Fresno, California where until 1898 she operated a cattle ranch and vineyard.

In a visit to New York City in the winter of 1902, while sitting in a trolley car on a frosty day, she observed that the motorman drove with the front window open because of difficulty keeping the windshield clear of falling sleet. When she returned to Alabama she hired a designer for a hand-operated device to keep a windshield clear and had a local company produce a working model.

Mary Anderson applied for, and in 1903 was granted, a 17-year patent for a windshield wiper. Her device consisted of a lever with a rubber blade. The lever could be operated from inside a vehicle to cause the spring-loaded arm to move back and forth across the windshield. Similar devices had been made earlier, but Anderson's was the first to be effective.

In 1905 she tried to sell the rights through a noted Canadian firm, but they rejected her application, saying "we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale." Only fter the patent expired in 1920 did the automotive manufacturing business grew exponentially. windshield wipers using Anderson's basic design became standard equipment.

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