Canada Invents – Inventive Women

  • March 27, 2017

Early Female Inventors in Canada

Canadian women have been patenting their inventions from the very inception of the Patent Act of 1869. While in these early days many women needed their husbands to co-sign their patent applications, it certainly didn’t stop women from patenting their ideas. Looking through old patent listings you will see the addition of “wife of” quite frequently.

Many early patents granted to Canadian women fell within either the domestic, such as “Machines for Making Butter” or “Improvement for Stoves“, or fashion spheres, such as “Draft Scale Rules and Sweeps for Cutting and Fitting Dresses for Women” or “Skirt Protector“. This is hardly surprising considering that even today people invent within their areas of expertise, and many women at this time made their lives as homemakers.

This was definitely not always the case. Eliza Scott invented the “Druggists Sieve” in 1885, and Jane Campbell is listed as co-applicant of “A Machine for Manufacturing Wheels” in 1870. While there is not a lot of information regarding how these inventions were received, or whether they were well used, it does demonstrate that women have a long history of inventing in a variety of fields.

Notable Inventions

While there are many inventions by Canadian women, here are a few that have made waves on the global stage.

Being barred from studying engineering didn’t stop Yvonne Brill from pursuing a career in space exploration. She instead studied chemistry and mathematics at the University of Manitoba, and moved to the United States to begin her career. She went on to be a pioneer in jet propulsion for satellite systems inventing the “Hydrazine Resistojet Propulsion System” in 1967. Brill’s jet propulsion system is now standard to satellite systems worldwide because of its overall efficiency.

Olivia Poole grew up in Minnesota, but her famous invention the Jolly Jumper was invented, marketed, and sold on Canadian soil. She based her design off of papoose’s her elders used on the White Earth Indian Reservation into a swing after her son was born. Jolly Jumpers became very popular, and by 1959 Poole’s factory was producing several thousand units per month. In fact, it is estimated that one out of every five Canadian babies grows up bouncing in a Jolly Jumper (Patently Female).

If you’ve taken a CPR class within the last 25 years, it is likely that you’ve benefited from the ingenuity of Dianne Croteau. Croteau invented the Actar 911 CPR manikin in 1990, simplifying the existing model. Her invention has helped millions to learn CPR – and at a fraction of the price organizations can acquire 10-30 in place of one old style manikin allowing for more effective training seeing as everyone is able to have their own rather than sharing.

Female Inventor’s Today

Currently, one in 10 inventors in Canada  identify as women, which certainly shows an upward trend since 1991 when only one per cent of all Canadian patents had been granted to women.

With a vast number of programs encouraging young women to study STEM fields and programs and programs such as the Patent Program by Microsoft which supports female inventors in patenting their ideas, this number will certainly skyrocket.

Works Consulted & Relevant Links 

Learn more about Annie Dixon’s Skirt Protector and early female inventors

Learn about Eliza Scott’s Druggist’s Sieve

The Commissioners of Patents Journal from 1872 shows some of the first Canadian patents granted to women – see Canadian patents number 273, 489, 663, 1009, 1156, 1191, and 1192