May 5th: Mary Kies Is the First Woman Awarded a U.S. Patent

May 5, 2023

On May 5, 1809, Mary Kies made history by becoming the first woman to be awarded a U.S. patent, breaking barriers for female inventors and showcasing the importance of women’s contributions to American innovation. Kies’ patent was granted for her technique of weaving straw with silk and thread, a process that revolutionized the hat-making industry in the early 19th century.

Prior to Kies’ invention, the production of straw hats was labor-intensive and time-consuming, as straw had to be meticulously braided and sewn together by hand. Kies’ innovative technique involved weaving straw with silk or thread to create a strong, flexible material that could be easily shaped into various hat styles. Her invention not only streamlined the hat-making process but also improved the quality and durability of the hats.

Her invention played a crucial role in reducing the country’s reliance on foreign-made goods, particularly in the fashion industry. Although few details about Kies’ life are known, her groundbreaking patent remains a symbol of the ingenuity and perseverance of early American women inventors. Despite the numerous legal and societal barriers they faced, women like Kies made vital contributions to the growth and development of the United States, paving the way for future generations of female inventors and entrepreneurs.


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