After a hang-gliding accident in 1978 left her paralyzed, Marilyn Hamilton used her own handicap to create a lightweight wheelchair that was easier to maneuver.
When 12-year-old Alexis Lewis saw the challenges Somali families faced transporting their families and belongings, she was inspired to help by adapting a traditional Native American sled, called a travois, by adding wheels.
Both Hamilton and Lewis and their inventions are highlighted in “Picturing Women Inventors,” a new poster exhibition that spotlights the inventions of 19 American women. The poster exhibition, presented by The Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will be on display at Museum of the Albemarle starting Friday, Oct. 22, through August 2022.
Included in the exhibition are women from a variety of backgrounds and age groups — everyone from astronauts, computer pioneers and businesswomen to athletes, engineers and even teenagers.
“Throughout American history, women with diverse backgrounds and interests created inventions that changed lives every day. But women haven’t always had equal opportunities to be inventors or received as much recognition,” a press release from the museum states.
Although not featured in the “Picturing Women Inventors” exhibit, there are several North Carolina women inventors, including one from Elizabeth City, of note. City native Nannie W. Hunter received a patent in 1867 for her solution to creating a better smelling soap.
Additionally, Raleigh native Beulah Louise Henry, who lived from 1887 to 1973, was a talented inventor whose nickname was “Lady Edison.” After moving to New York City, she started two companies, received 49 patents, and was credited with more than 100 inventions.
“Picturing Women Inventors” is distributed at no cost to schools, libraries, museums and community organizations by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It’s sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies IF/THEN Initiative and Ericsson. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.