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Notable Women: Mary Anderson

UncategorizedSamantha Extance

There are many inventions we use everyday thanks to great minds. One such mind is that of Mary Anderson who invented the windshield wiper! The National Inventors Hall of Fame notes that while Anderson, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, was "touring the city of New York in a trolley car on a snowy day in the early 1900s. [Mary] conceived of her idea of a windshield wiper blade that could be operated from the inside by the trolley driver." Mary patented her invention in 1903.

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In 1905, she tried to sell the rights to her invention, but she was rejected because it was not considered of "commercial value" to manufacturers (as the automotive industry had not yet skyrocketed). Her patent expired 1920, and only 2 years later Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to include windshield wipers among a car's standard equipment.

Mary was successful, despite not profiting from her invention; she managed an apartment building in Birmingham and a cattle ranch and vineyard in California.

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Mary Anderson's design for the windshield wiper is the basic one we use today (with some modern adjustments along the way). In fact several patents for reinvented windshield wipers are filed each year. From 2010 to now, there were a staggering 390 alone!

While there are no doubt many tweaks, adjustments, and reinventions--thanks to Mary Anderson we all drive safer because of her marvelous invention!


Dashka Slater, "Who made the windshield wiper?" NY Times Magazine.

"Mary Anderson." The National Inventors Hall of Fame.