March is the Women’s History Month celebrated globally to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The month corresponds with the International Women’s Day which is marked globally on March 8.
As part of Face2Face Africa’s commitment to informing and connecting black people around the world, we have resolved to devote each day of the month of March to celebrate black women inventors and to highlight their inventions.
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Ellen Eglin was born in Washington, D.C in 1849. She was a housekeeper and government clerk.
In the late 1800s, she invented a type of clothes wringer which had two rollers cranked to handle. The rollers were made of two wooden pins placed on top of each other. Once the handle is turned, the pins roll.
Because a black woman could not get a patent in the 1800s, Eglin sold her patent to a white woman for $18 dollars. In April 1890, Eglin was quoted as saying to Woman Inventor “you know I am black and if it was known that a Negro woman patented the invention, white ladies would not buy the wringer.” “I was afraid to be known because of my color in having it introduced into the market that is the only reason.” Subsequently, Eglin did not profit off of her creation.
Hoping to patent a second creation, unfortunately, she did not showcase her invention at the Women’s International Industrial Inventors Congress. She never went on to register either of her inventions.
Though much is unknown about the events of Eglin’s life, she went on to remain a government worker.