Women of the World: Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
In the lead up to #RedRebelDay, our team here at Gift Wellness wanted to shine some light on the women around the world who inspire our work towards ending period poverty. For todays’ instalment of ‘Women of the World’, Zakiya Whyles tells us all about Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, an inspiring woman with a brilliant mind:
Meet Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (born 1912 – died 2006)
It's a tragedy when lack of resources prohibits a bright and ingenious mind from fulfilling their passions and their potential. It's not uncommon to find that the beginnings of a household product came from the bright minds of a forgotten figure in a display of shameful history. I would like to introduce Ms Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, a creative and intelligent inventor born to a long line of inventors in Charlotte, North Carolina in Jim Crow era USA.
In 1957, twenty-seven years after Ms Kenner was forced to drop out of Howard University due to lack of funds, Ms Kenner had saved enough money to develop her own patent. It was an ingenious belt for sanitary napkins during a time when women used cloth pads and rags during their period. The belt prevented menstrual blood from leaking out and staining clothes. At the time women were actively discouraged from even leaving the house during their period for fear of leaking and seen as dirty. Tampons were available but considered promiscuous (yikes). Ms Kenner’s invention was revolutionary for two reasons; first it had a moisture proof seal that sealed in the blood and second, it still made use of the reusable rags and cloth pads.
This is where the story gets sad. Although Ms Kenner had a brilliant mind, she still lived as a Black woman in the 1960s under an unjust and shameful regime. She was contacted by a company that wanted to market her ideas. The company’s interest dropped when they found out she was Black. Ms Kenner did not receive any professional training; she did not see the same riches that corporations did from marketing her invention and she never really received any recognition for her contribution to our lifestyles and our households. To this day, at five patents, Ms Kenner holds the most patents any African American woman has had in history, which in many ways is sad.
It's important to recognise and pay homage to those that came before us, that went without and sacrificed for us. This is for Ms Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner.
For every day of menstruation, we pay homage to you Ms Kenner.