Women’s History Month: USPTO Highlights Trailblazing Women Inventors

In honor of Women’s History Month, and as part of its efforts to protect and promote the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs, the Department of Commerce’s US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is proud to share some inspiring stories of notable women innovators who have made lasting contributions to our nation’s history, economy, and way of life.

We highlight these incredible leaders in many ways, but one of the most popular channels is through our Inventor Collectible Card Series, which is celebrating its 10thth anniversary in 2022.

Launched by the USPTO and its Office of Education in 2012, the cards feature colorful portraits of various inventors from diverse backgrounds and demographics and were developed to encourage and inspire future generations of innovators from all walks of life. The images are illustrated by USPTO graphic artists, with new cards released and distributed periodically. These cards are popular among students and considered a “cool collector’s item.” And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency mails the cards directly to schools and youth-serving organizations in an effort to keep kids connected and inspired.

Here are a few trailblazing women featured in the USPTO collectible card series, and their exceptional accomplishments:

Marian Rogers Croak

Marian Croak, Ph.D., developed inventions that made phone calls more reliably and securely transmittable over the internet. She is a pioneer in the advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). dr Croak is a technology team leader, mentor, and mother of three who holds over 200 patents. She inspires others through her commitment to innovation, leadership, and service. She will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) this year.

Helen Murray Free

Helen Murray Free and her husband Alfred Free developed the first dip-and-read test strips for use in diagnostic testing. Their work revolutionized the field of urinalysis and led to many self-testing systems for people with diabetes. Free held numerous patents, received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI) (the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement), was inducted to the NIHF, and was a champion of STEM education until her death in 2021 at the age of 98.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is an inventor, professor, author, inspirational speaker, and an important champion for the humane treatment of livestock. A professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and a leading advocate for the disabled community, Grandin holds a patent for farm-handling equipment, including a system that prevents animals from being hurt and help keep them calm during inoculation.

Beulah Louise Henry

Beulah Henry was a prolific inventor with 49 US patents and over 100 inventions credited to her name. She received her first patent at the age of 25 for a vacuum-sealed ice cream freezer. A successful entrepreneur, her numerous inventions included improvements to sewing machines, typewriters, cash registers, umbrellas, dolls, and toys. On April 1, the USPTO will unveil its newest Journeys of Innovation story about Beulah Henry at www.uspto.gov.

Stephanie Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek invented poly-paraphenylene terephtalamide, a polymer material that is five times stronger than steel, while working as one of DuPont’s first female research chemists. The material, marketed worldwide under DuPont’s Kevlar® brand, has many applications ranging from bicycle tires and racing sails to vests used by police and military personnel. During her lifetime, she was honored with the NMTI and inducted into the NIHF. Dupont had sold one million Kevlar vests by the time of her death in 2014.

Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa, a veteran of three NASA Space Shuttle flight missions and the first Hispanic-American woman in space, is a co-inventor on three patents: an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and a method for noise removal in images . Her inventions significantly increased the ability to capture and analyze finely detailed imagery, with applications in space and on Earth.

The USPTO’s Inventor Collectible Card Series shows the many faces of US patent holders—both contemporary and historic. The cards personalize inventors and inventions, help tell inventors’ stories, and inspire young people to see themselves as creative problem-solvers capable of inventing their own future. Requests for USPTO trading cards can be sent to education@uspto.gov. You can also view the entire collection on the kids page on the USPTO website.

Marian Croak, Ph.D., developed inventions that made phone calls more reliably and securely transmittable over the internet. She is a pioneer in the advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). dr Croak is a technology team leader, mentor, and mother of three who holds over 200 patents. She inspires others through her commitment to innovation, leadership, and service. She will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) this year.

Helen Murray Free

Helen Murray Free and her husband Alfred Free developed the first dip-and-read test strips for use in diagnostic testing. Their work revolutionized the field of urinalysis and led to many self-testing systems for people with diabetes. Free held numerous patents, received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI) (the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement), was inducted to the NIHF, and was a champion of STEM education until her death in 2021 at the age of 98.

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