Posted on: November 22, 2023 Posted by: Dr. Thelá Thatch Comments: 1
(May 17, 1912 – Jan. 13, 2006)

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was a remarkable inventor and pioneer in women’s health that many have never heard of.  Kenner received five patents and made significant contributions to the field of feminine hygiene.  Despite facing racial and gender discrimination during her lifetime, Kenner’s innovations have had a lasting impact.  Kenner was consistently coming up with creative solutions to problems even as a young child.  In fact, at the age of six, she tried to invent a self-oiling door hinge.  A sponge at the tip of an umbrella to soak up rainwater and a portable ashtray to attach to a cigarette pack were among some of her other inventions.

One of her notable inventions was the sanitary belt, which she patented in 1956.  The sanitary belt was an adjustable, moisture-proof napkin holder that provided a more secure and comfortable alternative to existing methods of menstrual hygiene.  Even though she originally invented the sanitary belt in the 1920s, she could not afford a patent at the time.  Eventually, she would improve her earlier version.  In 1957, The Sonn-Nap-Pack Company got word of her invention and contacted her with the intent of marketing it.  However, they declined when they discovered that she was Black.

In an interview, Kenner shared, “One day, I was contacted by a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea.  I was so jubilant; I saw houses, cars, and everything about to come my way. Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped.  The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested.”  Unfortunately, due to consistent racial and gender biases prevalent in her time, Kenner continued to face challenges in marketing and selling her inventions to major companies.

In addition to the sanitary belt, Kenner also invented a bathroom tissue holder with a moisture-proof compartment, receiving a patent for this invention in 1982.  Her contributions to feminine hygiene and personal care products were significant, offering practical solutions to address women’s needs.

Mary Davidson Kenner’s work is now recognized as pioneering in the realm of women’s health and hygiene.  Her inventions laid the groundwork for subsequent developments in feminine hygiene products and contributed to improving the lives of women.  Although she did not achieve widespread recognition, Kenner’s inventions had a long-lasting impact on everyday life.  Her legacy serves as an inspiration and a testament to her innovative spirit in overcoming obstacles.

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1 people reacted on this

  1. Yes, we thank you Mary Beatrice Kenner. I have never heard of you. That is ridiculous. Another little or unknown piece of Black History. The sad part is that because she was black, it took so long to get the patent. Then a major corporation wanted the idea and rebuked her solely on the color of her skin. Not that her idea was flawed in any way, just because she was black. I pray that our younger generation realizies the true sacrafices that our ancestors endured. So many break throughs, so little recognition.

    Thank you so much Dr. Thatch for enlightening us on Ms. Kenner and her achievements.

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