Snow and sleet pelted the windshield of the New York City streetcar Mary Anderson was riding on that winter’s day in 1902. It was the ride she would remember for the rest of her life, because it was that ride that inspired her to invent the world’s first windshield wiper.
Mary watched as the driver struggled to see through the blinding rain and snow and wondered why someone didn’t invent something to clear the windshield. She voiced her concern to the other passengers and they told her it had been tried many times and couldn’t be done.
Mary thought this was nonsense and immediately began scribbling in her notebook with ideas she thought might work. When she returned home she continued to work on sketches of her invention, and hired a company to make a model. Then she filed a patent.
She was awarded the patent in 1903 for the first windshield wiper, and she wrote a large Canadian company offering to sell her rights. They decided her invention had no commercial value and turned her down.
Disheartened, Mary put her patent in a drawer and let it expire. Several years later someone revived her idea, patented it and made a fortune.
The windshield wiper remains one of the greatest inventions for safety of the modern day automobile.
So, the next time you’re driving your car and your windshield is being pelted by rain or covered in snow and you turn on your windshield wipers, remember to thank a woman, thank Mary Anderson.