A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
AUGUST 20:

  • Happy birthday Belinda Hurmence (A Girl Called Boy).
  • It’s the birth date of H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), Dreams in the Witch House: And Other Weird Stories, Jeff Brown (1926-2003), Flat Stanley series, and Sue Alexander (1933-2008), Behold the Trees.
  • In 1775 the Spanish establish a presidio (fort) in the town that will become Tucson, Arizona. Read The No Place Cat by C. S. Adler.
  • Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution through natural selection in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London on this day in 1858. Read Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins.
  • In 1882, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture makes its debut in Moscow. Read Jeremy’s War 1812 by John Ibbitson.
  • In 1920 the first commercial radio station, 8MK (WWJ), begins operations in Detroit, Michigan. Read Radio Fifth Grade by Gordon Korman.

August has been designated National Inventors Month. So often when we think of inventors, we think of dead white men. But in 2000, writer Catherine Thimmesh and illustrator Melissa Sweet published a book that changed that perception for me: Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women.

Catherine sets the stage in the opening chapter, talking about how women developed the mortar and pestle to prepare food. Then she takes us quickly through some notable historic achievements like the ice cream cone and hair care products. She highlights Mary Dixon Kies, the first woman to hold a U.S. patent, who came up with a method to weave straw with silk thread that was used to manufacture women’s hats. Thank you Mary Dixon Kies!

But the heart of the book lies in a series of three- to four-page essays about individual women who made a difference with their inventions. Sometimes their creations came about by chance. Ruth Wakefield, in a hurry one day, altered her recipe for chocolate-butter drop cookies and made chocolate chip ones instead. A typing mistake led Bette Nesmith Graham to create Liquid Paper. This little gem eventually was purchased for 47.5 million dollars! The book introduces chemists like Stephanie Kwolek who invented Kevlar but also women like the pragmatic Margaret E. Knight, who worked in a paper-bag factory. She invented a machine that made flat-bottomed paper bags, so they didn’t have to be made by hand.

Everyone one of these portraits provides fascinating details—what the women thought about, how they developed a business around what they created, and whether or not they sold the rights to a larger company. It not only provides information about inventions, but also what can be accomplished in a small or growing business. Melissa Sweet’s art, just as lively as the text, provides portraits of the women and adds facts about their achievements.

In a final sequence—“Girls (Even the Young Ones) Think of Everything”—the book presents two young people, Becky Schroeder, 17, and Alexia Abernathy, 11, who caught the inventor bug early in their lives. With a timeline and further reading, the book makes the topic so appealing that young and old will want to try their hand at inventing something.

Personally, I am off to work on the “Silvey”—a way to secure women’s hats to their heads! Happy National Inventors Month and happy inventing!

Here’s a page from Girls Think of Everything:

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Originally posted August 20, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: History, Inventors, Science, Women
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Girls Think of Everything
One year ago: Kindergarten Diary
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COMMENTS

  1. G. Perry says:

    Great start to Monday. Got it coming from the library.

    Can’t wait! to get hands on it.

  2. Diane says:

    I just put a hold on it at my local library. Can’t wait to read it! I love Melissa Sweet’s illustrations. Thanks for a great entry, Anita.

  3. Girls Think of Everything is one of my favorite compilations re women inventors. Thanks for posting, Anita.

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