They say that necessity is the mother of invention — and that’s certainly true when you consider how many innovations have been developed by women. In honor of International Women’s Day, here are a few of the many ways women have changed the modern world.

Chocolate chip cookies

Thank you Ruth Wakefield, who made the first batch when she realized she was out of baker’s chocolate, but needed to make cookies for her guests at the Toll House Inn. (Get it!?) She assumed that the pieces she broke off the Nestlé semi-sweet bar she had would melt into the cookies, but thank goodness they didn’t!


Did you know a woman programmed the first computers? During World War II, Grace Hopper (“Amazing Grace”) joined “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)” and was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University. She is credited with being the first to use the word “bug” to describe a faulty computer when a moth was stuck in her computer. She also led the team that created the first computer language compiler, which led to the well-known COBOL language. (Fun fact: her legacy lives on in the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, a conference known as the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.)

Coffee maker

Melitta Bentz with the win for that cuppa that gets us going each morning! Before her invention in the early 1900s, coffee drinkers would tie up coffee grounds in a small cloth bag that they then dunked into a pot of boiling water (which, for the most part, just resulted in hot water with grounds in it). Bentz invented the coffee filter by poking holes in a piece of absorbent paper and then pouring the coffee over it. The filtered grounds remained and the liquid seeped through to “drip” into a cup.

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Disposable diapers

Who wants to wash diapers (and wet clothes and bedding)? Not Marion Donovan. She created a waterproof diaper cover from a shower curtain that was both more effective and more comfortable than the “rubber pants” of the day. And then she created snap fasteners to avoid those diaper pin pricks. Guess which manufacturer wanted to buy her invention? None. So she did what any enterprising woman would do and took it straight to the customer  via the shoppers at Saks Fifth Avenue. The pants were an immediate sensation and she received a patent in 1951. She then went on to create the fully disposable diaper.

The home security system

Do you feel safer knowing who’s at your door before opening it? Well, you can thank Marie Van Brittan Brown, who invented the home security system. With a husband who worked long, late hours and a neighborhood in Queens where she didn’t feel entirely safe, she decided she would rig up a system that would show her who was outside her apartment from any room. Her closed circuit system design used a camera that projected images onto a TV monitor and a panic button that called the police.

To every hard-working, innovative woman, we thank you!

Safe and smart | Smart technology

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.