Beulah Louise Henry

If you’ve ever wondered where and how the things we use in our everyday lives came from, it really comes down to one thing.  To make our lives easier.  Look around and notice how everything we use has greatly influenced and improved our everyday lives as well as advanced the world we live in.  Pretty cool, right?  Now, ever wondered who was behind all these cool inventions that make our lives so amazing?

Thomas Edison discovered the light bulb and brought light accessible to all households.  Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and as a result, changed the way people communicated with each other.   Another notable inventor who has greatly influenced our lives is a woman named, Beulah Louise Henry.

Nicknamed, “Lady Edison,” Beulah Louise Henry was an American inventor who has been credited with approximately 110 inventions and 49 patents to her name.  Born on February 11, 1887 in North Carolina, Beulah studied at North Carolina Presbyterian College and Elizabeth College and began inventing since childhood.  Her first and most famous patent was achieved in 1912 when she was in her mid-twenties for a vacuum ice cream freezer.  What is a vacuum ice cream freezer, you ask?  It’s a device that allows one to make ice cream using ice, salt, milk and sugar without all the cranking that’s required like the earlier manual ice cream makers.  Her other inventions also include an umbrella that has detachable cloth covers and she even sold her invention to a company called Henry Umbrella and Parasol Company, where she served as president.  Beulah’s innovative vision and business saaviness then led her to lead as president of another company, the B. L. Henry Company of New York in 1929.

During the next few decades, Beulah continued to create and issue several more patents including a sponge that held soap in the middle in addition to the equipment that manufactured the sponges.  She also spent much of her time improving and adding enhancements to popular everyday tools like the sewing machine and typewriter and received yet another patent for the protograph, which was a machine that produced an original typed document and four “copies” without using any carbon paper.  Her skills and achievements were recognized by various companies and was even hired by them to be a product developer and worked on various equipments ranging from household items to envelope machines.

We celebrate Beulah Louise Henry’s incredible achievements for several reasons.  For one, her products have served as some of the early prototypes for so many tools and innovations that we use today and thus, improving our everyday lives.  And two, unbeknownst to her, she is a pivotal figure and a pioneer in worlds that have been dominated by men for a very long time, especially during hers – education, science, engineering and business.  Through the years, the work of amazing women like Beulah have not only paved the way for today’s women to dream outside of society’s expectations but to pursue a life and career in areas that were thought to be a “man’s world.”  And for that, we thank her.



Her Feats: Known as “Lady Edison” she had a role in over 100 inventions though she was more of a visionary who relied on model makers and engineers to bring them to life since she lacked the technical knowledge. Of her many inventions lists the vacuum ice freezer, the “protograph” (a primitive photocopier), the inflatable doll, the can opener, hair curlers, the “Latho” (a sponge that held a bar of soap in the center), and an umbrella with a snap-on cloth cover that allowed it to be color coordinated.

Why She’s Ignored: For one, she’s a woman at a time when the most famous inventors were men. Also, she only took 49 patents while many of her male counterparts took way more for things they weren’t totally their own ideas (I’m talking to you Edison).