Legacy Of Mary Kenner: The Woman Who Invented Sanitary Belts.


Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, born on May 17, 1912, in Monroe, North Carolina, stands as a remarkable inventor with a profound legacy. Growing up in a family of innovators, Kenner’s passion for invention ignited at a tender age of six when she endeavored to create a self-oiling door hinge. The spirit of innovation flowed through her veins, influenced by her father and maternal grandfather, both significant contributors to the world of invention.

In 1924, Mary relocated to Washington DC, where she familiarized herself with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, despite facing financial constraints. Her academic pursuits at Howard University were cut short due to financial struggles, leading her to various odd jobs before securing a federal position in 1941, a role she held throughout the decade.

Image Credits: Youth Ki Avaaz

Balancing her profession as a florist with her passion for invention, Kenner showcased resilience and determination. Her groundbreaking invention in 1957, the sanitary belt, addressed the prevalent issue of menstrual blood leakage. Despite encountering racial discrimination from a potential marketing partner, Kenner persisted, subsequently introducing other notable inventions such as attachments for walkers and wheelchairs, a patented toilet paper holder, and a mounted back washer and massager.

In 1951, Mary Kenner married James “Jabbo” Kenner and became foster parents, extending their family with the adoption of Woodrow and five foster children. Despite James’s passing in 1983, Mary continued her inventive pursuits until her demise on January 13, 2006, in Washington DC, at the age of 93.

Regrettably, Mary Kenner did not receive formal recognition or awards for her groundbreaking inventions during her lifetime. However, her contributions laid the groundwork for subsequent innovations. Remarkably, Kenner holds the record for the greatest number of patents awarded to a Black woman by the U.S. government, totaling five.

As we commemorate the International Day of Women of Color, we honor the enduring legacy of Mary Kenner, an unsung hero whose inventions and resilience continue to inspire generations of innovators in the realm of women’s sanitary hygiene products and beyond.

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