Celebrating Our Connections Series

Celebrating our Connections is a new monthly column encouraging our members to uncover and share their own personal or ancestors’ stories of women who broke ground in large or small ways, helping to develop women’s rights. “Who are the s/heroes in your family or community who helped “write our future”? Please send us your stories!

Women’s eNews
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Women’s eNews reports the stories of women and girls to create a more equitable world. It is an award-winning nonprofit (501c3) news service covering issues of particular concern to women and providing women’s perspectives on public policy. Women’s eNews editors seek out freelance writers from around the world to write on every topic–politics, religion, economics, health, science, sustainability, education, sports, legislation–and commission them to write 800-word news articles for distribution each day to our subscribers and for posting on our Web site.


Incredible Inventions by Women that Changed the World
by Dr. Pamela Williamson, Women’s Business Enterprise Council
1. Circular saw
Inventor: Tabitha Babbitt Year: 1812
Babbit lived in the Shaker community and worked as a weaver. She noticed people having difficulty cutting wood with a pit saw. This type of saw required 2 people to use it, and it only cut wood in a single direction. To provide a solution to the problem she attached a circular blade to a spinning wheel which resulted in the invention of the circular saw.
2. Dishwasher
Inventor: Josephine Cochran Year: 1872
Cochran came up with the invention to use water pressure, instead of scrubbers that were used back then, to clean dishes. Although there were other prototypes, Cochran’s design was the most effective one from the rest.
3. Life raft
Inventor: Maria Beasley Year: 1882
Maria Beasley was a serial inventor who was already credited with the barrel- hopping machine patent. She later designed a life raft with guard rails that was foldable and fireproof. The life rafts created based on her design were used on the Titanic, and saved over 700 lives.
4. Windshield wiper
Inventor: Mary Anderson Year: 1903
Anderson was refused by manufacturers when she tried to sell her new windshield cleaning device. However, it was only after 10 years, and after her patent expired, that a similar device became a standard on cars.
Learn more about Women’s Business Enterprise Council: https://wbec-west.com/

Making a Difference in Women’s Lives
By Jan Eriksen

As my sister Mary Beth Paquette prepares to retire this month, I’m reflecting on the realization that she is the first real feminist in our family. She earned a B.S. degree in Child and Family Community Services from Bowling Green State University in 1977 and

then joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). Her first assignment was at a women’s shelter in Anchorage, Alaska, the only refuge for survivors of domestic abuse in the state at that time. Mary Beth devoted a year to learning the operation before being sent to Nome to establish the Bering Sea Women’s Shelter.

Following two years in Alaska, Mary Beth spent all of 1980 studying for a B.A. degree in Women’s Studies at Western Washington University in Bellingham. From Washington she re-joined VISTA and spent two years in Idaho, working with the state disability office in Idaho Falls and then with the Task Force on Child Sexual Abuse in Pocatello. While in Pocatello Mary Beth volunteered with victims of domestic abuse. “There was a cowboy mentality,” she said. “Many of the perpetrators attempted to justify the abuse and the Mormons hid the abuse.”

Mary Beth then moved to the state that would become home: Maine. She began as director of Caring Unlimited, the southernmost women’s shelter in Maine. Her later work included 10 years with Women Unlimited, funded by the Maine Department of Transportation and headquartered in Augusta. The curriculum operated at various locations around Maine, primarily at community colleges. Mary Beth began as a program coordinator. Although the program was open to any woman who wanted to work in the trades, most students were on state assistance. Grants covered nearly all of their tuition.

Some of the non-traditional careers that women prepared for included auto mechanics, printing press operations, Class B truck driving, carpentry, computer-aided design, pipe fitting, and landscaping. Mary Beth was promoted to senior program coordinator and eventually became executive director. Women who completed the course work were eligible to take an entry-level engineering test (Engineering I) and then could apply for positions with the DOT or with private industry.

My sister Mary Beth made a positive difference in women’s lives during her career, but she’s just one person. We still have a long way to go with preventing domestic violence and with educating women and girls for STEM and trade careers. For example, a recent report on National Public Radio indicated that women hold only 3% of jobs in the trades (such as plumbing, electrical, and ironworking) in the United States. The broadcast went on to indicate that part of the reason it can be difficult to retain women in the trades is inappropriate behavior and language on the part of their male co-workers.

Both women and men prospective trade workers are in need of training and possibly apprenticeships. Veteran as well as incoming tradesmen can also benefit from sexual harassment awareness workshops.