Ellen Eglin

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Ellen Eglin (1849- after 1890) was an African-American inventor who invented a clothes wringer for washing machines.

Personal[edit]

Ellen Eglin was born in 1849 in Washington D.C. While living in D.C., Eglin made her living as a housekeeper and a government clerk.

Her Invention[edit]

Example of a Clothes Wringer that was used during the 19th century

In 1800s, she invented a special type of clothes-wringer which was a machine that had two rollers in a frame that was connected to a crank. Clothes would be fed in between the two rollers and as the crank was turned the clothes would have the water pressed out of them. A clothes wringer was made from two wooden pins that are on top of each other with a crank attached to allow the pins to roll. This invention came at a time when there were not a lot of ways to wash clothes other than with your hands. Therefore, this was an amazing invention and concept. However, Eglin decided to sell her patent to a “white person interested in manufacturing the product” for $18.[1] In the April 1890 issue of Woman Inventor, Eglin was quoted as saying “You know I am black and if it was known that a Negro woman patented the invention, white ladies would not buy the wringer. I was afraid to be known because of my color in having it introduced into the market that is the only reason.”[2] The buyer went on to reap considerable financial awards.[3]

Later Work[edit]

After selling her clothes-wringer she remained hopeful to patent a second device. She was funding this invention by herself and wanted a patent for it so that people could know that “the invention will be known as a black woman’s.”[4] Despite wanting to exhibit the new model at the Women's International Industrial Inventors Congress, she never went on to patent it. In fact, there is no information that she ever created this invention. She went on to work as a clerk in a census office.[5] Eglin was in a rare position as an inventor because she was one of only a few African American women inventors. She set the stage for later inventors such as Madam C.J. Walker, as well as Sarah Boone.[6] Although Eglin invention became very successful, there is still a lack of sources on the events that took place in her life.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sullivan, Otha (October 28, 2001). Black Stars: African American Women Scientist and Inventors. Wiley. ISBN 9780471387077. 
  2. ^ Warrick, Pamela (September 23, 1992). "Mothers of Invention". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Otha (October 28, 2001). Black Stars: African American Women Scientist and Inventors. Wiley. ISBN 9780471387077. 
  4. ^ Sluby, Patricia (2004). The Inventive Spirit of African Americans. Connecticut: Prseger Publisher. p. 128. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Otha (October 28, 2001). Black Stars: African American Women Scientist and Inventors. Wiley. ISBN 9780471387077. 
  6. ^ McNeill, Leila (7 February 2017). "These Four Black Women Inventors Reimagined the Technology of the Home". Smithsonian. Retrieved 6 February 2018. 

External sources[edit]