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Inventors

Actress Hedy Lamarr patents the basis for WiFi

August 11, 1942

“All creative people want to do the unexpected.” — Actress Hedy Lamarr

Frances Slanger

One of four nurses to wade ashore at Normandy Beach on D-Day, Frances Slanger was the only nurse to die as a result of enemy action in the European Theater.

Ruth Mosko Handler

Ruth Mosko Handler is best known as the inventor of the Barbie doll, but her most important work may be her prosthetics for survivors of breast cancer.

Living by Their Own Codes

Women who make history rarely feel the need to adhere to others' narratives—and that goes double for Jewish women.  So it's not surprising that when Radia Perlman, architect of many of the routing and bridging protocols that make the modern Internet possible, discusses her childhood, she casually disposes of the standard geek-culture heroic origin story: "I did not fit the stereotype of the 'engineer.' I never took things apart or built a computer out of spare parts."  Irene Greif, a fellow computer scientist who brought ethnographers, anthropologists and sociologists into systems design through her field of computer-supported cooperative work, cheerfully admits: "I have a whole history of always choosing marginal roles and in marginal subjects of research and so on for myself."  Her work, though, has turned out to be anything but marginal. 

Mollie Orshansky, 1915 - 2006

Mollie Orshansky was my good friend and esteemed colleague at the Social Security Administration where we both worked. Over the course of her long life – she lived until the age of 91 – Mollie was very smart, independent, and a hardworking government employee. She was called Miss Poverty because she developed the poverty index widely used by the Federal government as a basis for benefit programs involving low income individuals and families.

Florence Melton, 1911 - 2007

When I met Florence over twenty-one years ago in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, she had already proven to be a successful inventor and business woman. Florence had developed Shoulda-Shams, removable shoulder pads for the tailored look of the 40s. Because of their success, she became a co-founder of R.G. Barry Corporation where she invented the world's first foam-soled, soft washable slipper, known internationally as Dearfoams.

Florence Zacks Melton

Philanthropist and visionary innovator, a lay leader for over fifty years, Florence Zacks Melton has helped build institutions that have improved the quality and broadened the scope of Jewish education throughout North America.

Ruth Mosko Handler

Best known as the inventor of the Barbie doll, Ruth Mosko Handler combined her marketing genius with her husband Elliot Handler’s creative designs to form the toy company Mattel, Inc. Starting in their garage in 1939, the Handlers produced Lucite gifts, wooden picture frames, and dollhouse furniture before developing their first toy, the Uke-A-Doodle, in 1947. The success of the Uke-A-Doodle was followed by a series of rubber-belt-driven musical toys, including the Jack-in-the-Box, as well as toy guns such as a Winchester rifle replica. Yet it was the Barbie doll, created in 1959, that “ran off the counter.” Thirty years later, sales of the doll that Handler named after her daughter exceeded one billion dollars.

Ruth Lewis Farkas

The impressive and full life of Ruth Lewis Farkas spanned many occupations: educator, sociologist, businesswoman, philanthropist, inventor, wife, and mother. She was born on December 20, 1906, and raised in Manhattan, the fourth of Samuel Lewis and Jennie Bach’s five children. Farkas’s parents were in the real estate business, but Jennie Lewis also worked with the poor of Manhattan and occasionally allowed her young daughter to accompany her into tenements. She gave Ruth this advice: “No matter what your station in life, always try to contribute to those less fortunate.”

Gertrude Elion

Gertrude (“Trudy”) Belle Elion’s greatest legacy is the thousands of lives touched by the drugs she and her associates developed for the treatment of leukemia, gout, rejection of transplanted organs, and herpes, among other disorders.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Inventors." (Viewed on August 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/inventors>.

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