The Woman Who Invented the Windshield Wipers

New York Culture

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Have you ever tried driving a car in the rain without using the windshield wipers? I did. It happened against my will last summer when the wipers on my car stopped working. If you haven't encountered such a tragedy before, trust me: it's not pleasant and quite scary. It's even more dangerous when you're driving on a freeway.

Did you ever wonder who came up with this invention? That's right: windshield wipers didn't just appear from thin air; someone had to come up with this idea. And someone did! She was an American-born woman, and her name was Mary Anderson.

The Lady Whose Invention We Use Daily

Mary Anderson was born and raised in Alabama, the United States, in 1866. She moved around as a child due to her mother becoming a widow, but the family never experienced poverty and was a regular middle-class family. One time, when Mary was an adult, she travelled to New York in a trolley car.

Back in the day, before windshield wipers were invented, drivers had to stop and wait till the rain ended; or took breaks to wipe the glass manually. The bravest would continue driving if it seemed safe enough. Mary's New York trip was rainy, and she watched her driver continuously struggle to wipe the windshield. That's when an idea struck her.

"What if there was a device that can wipe the windshield without having the drivers involved? - thought Mary."

Anderson came up with a new invention: a swinging arm with rubber blades on the car windshield. She applied for and was awarded the patent in 1903, but it wasn't until 1908 that Henry Ford would use it for his Model T Ford car.

Interestingly, Mary's friends and family mocked her for her "genius invention" because they thought it useless and silly. But as 1913 rolled around, thousands of Americans owned cars equipped with windshield wipers.

(This article is a part of the NewsBreak's "HerStory" campaign)

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