March 8 is International Women’s Day, an ideal time to recognize trailblazer Mary Dixon Kies, who, on May 5, 1809, became the first woman to receive a U.S. Patent. Unfortunately, her patent was destroyed in the Patent Office fire of 1836. Her invention, a new technique of weaving straw with silk and thread to make hats, contributed to more than a simple method of making wearable fashion — while the hat was in vogue, it helped to bolster New England’s hat industry, which had been faltering due to the Embardo Act of 1807. Her patent also received praise Dolly Madison, wife of President James Madison.
According to the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, into which Kies was inducted in 2006, Kies’ patent was one of only 20 issued to a woman before 1840.