Finally, I would like to celebrate the practicality of women. Early cars and trams had no way of clearing the front window in poor weather. The driver, usually a man, had to pull down the side window and stick their head out to see where they were going!

Mary Anderson (born in 1866 in Alabama, USA), hired a designer to make a device to keep the windshield clear, and had a local company produce a working model. In 1903 she was granted a patent for a windshield wiper.

At the time cars were expensive and few & far between – Ford had not yet started production. Mary tried to sell the rights to her invention in 1905, but the car manufacturer rejected her application. They said they “could not see the value of her invention and stressed the risk that the driver would be distracted by operating the device and the moving wipers”. Her patent expired in 1920. In 1917, Charlotte Bridgewood patented the ‘electric storm windshield cleaner’, the first automatic wiper system. Neither woman made any money from their inventions. In 1922, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to adopt windscreen wipers as standard equipment.

Picture: Mary Anderson. From Wikimedia Commons.