The Sanitary Belt
If you thought talking about menstruation was taboo now, you wouldn't believe how hush-hush women had to be about it back in the 1950s. While the earliest version of disposable pads were on the market, they were expensive and cumbersome to wear, often slipping back and forth — plus, the majority of women were generally too embarrassed to ask for them directly at a store, so they were still using less sanitary methods like cloth pads and rags during their period. Tampons were around too, but because of various warnings — for instance, religious leaders said they were "evil," and would make young girls "prone to erotic feelings" — they were not widely used.
Enter Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, who knew there had to be a better way. In 1954, she filed a patent for her invention: an adjustable belt for sanitary napkins with a moisture-proof pocket to keep the pad in place, made to be worn under women's garments. It was a brilliant idea that garnered attention from major companies, but Kenner's invention didn't come without its fair share of racism. "One day I was contacted by a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea. I was so jubilant," Kenner said. "Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested."
Three years later, in May 1957, Kenner was finally granted a patent for her sanitary belt, which was widely used until we finally decided to add an adhesive strip to the bottom of menstrual pads to secure them to underwear. This (obviously) became the new method of choice, and the sanitary belt went out of favor during the early '80s. In addition to changing the game with her sanitary belt, Kenner also went on to invent a bathroom tissue holder, a mounted shower back washer, and a carrier attachment for walkers. Of her historic creations, Kenner said, "My inventions were never about money. I just want to help make life easier for people." How often do you hear that anymore?