On May 5 1809 African-American Mary Dixon Kies received the first US patent granted to a woman in her own name. It was for an easy method of weaving straw with silk. This was quite important since most women worked in the fields and wore bonnets. Her technique proved quite valuable in making cost effective work bonnets. In so doing she bolstered New England's hat economy, faltering because of an embargo on imported European goods. Straw bonnets manufactured in Massachusetts alone in 1810 had an estimated value of more than $500,000 or over $4.7 million in today's money. Dolly Madison honored her for this work.
Return to Homepage