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Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an inventor, most known for creating the sanitary belt. It revolutionized period care. This invention lead to the adhesive pad, which influenced the array of menstrual supplies available today.
Davidson Kenner was born on May 17, 1912, in Monroe, North Carolina to a family of inventors. Her grandfather, Robert Phromeberger, created the tricolor light signal for trains and a stretcher with wheels for ambulances. In 1914, her father, Sidney Nathaniel Davidson, patented a travel sized clothes presser. Her sister, Mildred Davidson Austin Smith, invented “Family Treedition,” a board game in 1980.
Her first idea was a self-oiling door hinge, which she thought of at six years old. In line with her innovative genes, she created several inventions to address daily inconveniences. Some of these included a sponge tip to soak up rain off an umbrella and a portable ashtray to attach to cigarette cartons. Her family moved to Washington, D.C., when she was 12. She spend a lot of time exploring the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
After high school, Davidson Kenner attended Howard University. Unfortunately, she had to drop out for financial reasons. She worked odd jobs before becoming a federal employee. Ultimately, she became a professional florist for 20 years. In 1951, Mary married James “Jabbo” Kenner. They were foster and adoption parents.
Mary Davidson Kenner never stopped inventing. She saved money and filed for her first patent in 1957. Adhesive pads hadn't been invented. Women of that time had limited options. She invented an elastic belt that held sanitary napkins in place. This belt prevented the pad or cloth from moving, which caused an array of problems including leaks. Her invention was a major advancement for women’s comfort and menstrual hygiene. The Sonn-Nap-Pack Company was interested in marketing Mary's new gem. However, when they discovered that she was Black, they declined working with her.
She went on to invent several products. In 1976, Davidson Kenner patented a tray and pocket attachment for a walker or wheelchair. Along with her sister, she invented a toilet paper holder, patented in 1982. In 1987, she received her last patent for a mounted back washer and massager. All of her inventions were designed to help make everyday life easier.
Mary Davison Kenner died on January 13, 2006, in Washington D.C. at the age of 93. She never receive any formal recognition for her inventions. Davidson Kenner still holds the record for the greatest number of patents awarded a Black woman in the US. She received five.
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