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.
Miriam E. Benjamin in 1888 became the only second Black woman ever to receive a patent for an invention she called a Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. In her patent application, she stated as quoted by blackhistory.net that her chair would “reduce the expenses of hotels by decreasing the number of waiters and attendants, to add to the convenience and comfort of guests and to obviate the necessity of hand clapping or calling aloud to obtain the services of pages.”
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Her system operated by pressing a small button on the back of a chair which would relay a signal to a waiting attendant. A light would also illuminate on the chair to enable the attend see which of the guests needed help. Benjamin’s Gong and Signal Chair was adopted and installed within the United States House of Representatives. Her invention brought forth the methods being used in aeroplanes now to signal stewardesses.
Benjamin, born on September 16, 1861, was a school teacher when she invented her Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. At the time, she realized that so many customers in hotels and restaurants needed some services that could not be provided due to the inadequate number of staff at those hospitality institutions. Benjamin invented her system to enable these customers to quietly alert these workers when they needed any service.