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Black History: Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

Written by on February 6, 2020

Once a month, we have to thank this Black inventor to her contributions to feminine hygiene and sanitation. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner,  the inventor of the sanitary pad.

Born in 1912 in Monroe County, North Carolina Davidson Kenner was a curious mind always searching for ways to make the world around her a little easier. At age 6, she developed her first invention to help her mother fix a squeaky door by inventing a self oiling door. But wait there’s more! Davidson Kenner went on to invent a number of other practical devices holding five patents, more than any other Black woman in history.

What else did she invent? I’m glad you ask!

First, let’s start with the sanitary belt. This patented technology included a moisture proof sealed pocket unlike anything seen during that time. Before and into the 20th century, many women were advised not to leave their homes in fear of leakage and tampons while available were seen as improper for a lady to use (I know ridiculous). Davidson Kenner’s invention was the answer to these issues. Women could put on the belt and go about their day carefree. Guess how long it took before the belt was manufactured….

30 years! When she originally submitted the idea to the patent office and representative wanted to speak to her about the miraculous invention; they saw she was Black then wanted nothing to do with it. She persevered and 30 years later her brilliant invention finally went into development.

Another fascinating invention I think all the single showerers out there will appreciate is the back washer. If you need a good back scrubbing this just might be your answer. Davidson invented a contraption that attaches to the wall to get every part of your back your arms can’t reach.

Then, you won’t believe this one – I mean this woman thought of everything!

The toilet paper holder. Yeah, she invented that too. She remodeled and improved the design alongside her sister Mildred who was also an inventor. The improved version allows a little piece of toilet parer to hang out making it more accessible to the user.

Unfortunately, her sister Mildred was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis but it inspired another invention – a tray that attaches to walkers.

All of her inventions just aimed to make life a little better. Can you believe she barely saw any return on her inventions? Terrible, let that soak in. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner went on to open a floral shop in DC and later died in 2006.


Thank you for all that you did Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner & that’s on PERIOD.

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