Ada Lovelace Day Post: Mary Dixon Kies

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I’d like to recognize Mary Dixon Kies, the first woman to be awarded a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office, in May of 1809, over 100 years before women could even vote. I quote USPTO:

In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies, a native of Killingly, Conn., received the first U.S. patent awarded to a woman for a process of weaving straw with silk or thread. Unfortunately, all records of this patent were destroyed in the Patent Office fire of 1836. First Lady Dolly Madison praised Kies for helping the hat industry and boosting the economy because, at the time, the U.S. government had put an embargo on all European goods.

Mary Dixon Kies was 57 years old at the time she was awarded her patent. Although women had earlier invented patentable devices, in keeping with the times when even a woman’s ideas were not her own, their patents were awarded to their husbands. Mary Dixon Kies’ invention simplified the process of weaving straw with silk and thread, contributing to the vital straw hat industry of the early 19th century. She was unsuccessful in profiting from her invention, however, and died peniless in Brookyln in 1837, at the age of 85.