Inventors Week: Which Women Do We Include?

Homeschool has enlightened me to the celebration of inventions and inventors but I’m having a problem finding women to include in the curriculum. Lists I’ve found are confusing entrepreneurs and inventors. Others include inventors that are not right for a first grader. Needless to say, it has been a challenge.

The clear and obvious choice for teachers is Marie Curie and normally I would agree. But my first-grader will not understand radioactivity. He is not going to appreciate her contribution to the world and how important she is. At least not yet.

A few lists I’ve seen by teachers include Madam C.J Walker whom I didn’t know of until I began looking for female inventors. She is credited as the first female self-made millionaire for selling hair care products to Black women. However, she didn’t actually invent anything. She is an entrepreneur and there is a difference.

Inventors week is very frustrating to a homeschool mom who likes to ensures her son is learning about women because the exclusion of women from school curriculum is disturbing. Women will continue to have problems with equality if we can’t even find suitable inventors for inventors week.

After much effort I have created a small list of female inventors for inventors week that will work for elementary aged students. Again, there are lots of female inventors but only a handful are going to excite a 6 or 7 year old. Therefore, I chose women who invented something easily visible in a students world and they can name features of the invention without much prompting.

  • Florence Parpart invented modern refrigeration. The problem here is there isn’t a ton of information to find about her but she at least needs to have her name listed because who doesn’t use a refrigerator?

  • Marion Donovan invented disposable diapers.

  • Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers.

  • Stephanie Kwolch invented Kevlar although she is probably better for a third-grader or older.

  • Hedy Lamar invented WiFi during World War II while on break from making movies. This is important for the world we live in now but a first-grader isn’t going to fully appreciate what WiFi is (and honestly I can’t explain it).

It’s not a long list but hopefully you now have a few names you can include in your curriculum for inventors week. If you have other names of inventors who worked on something easily understood to a first or second grader, please comment below.

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