Oddity of the Week: Dubious Inventions: The Batheable Baby Doll

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Another great invention.

Dubious Inventions: The Batheable Baby Doll

Beulah Henry and her doll.

Okay, that's a cheap shot. The dolly can be washed, and is very realistic looking. We suppose little girls could use them to practice on. This particular Bride of Chucky appeared in 1927, and preteens were delighted. Moms were, too, when they stopped asking to be allowed to borrow Baby Brother. And it's not quite as creepy as the same inventor's other dolly – the one whose eyes changed colour…

They called her 'Lady Edison', because Beulah Henry (1887-1973) was a prolific inventor. She had around 49 patents and a total of 110 inventions. As women made up less than 2% of the patent holders in the US, this was a remarkable achievement.

Ms Henry's inventions often addressed women's concerns. For example, she invented a kind of handbag with an interchangeable cover, so ladies could match their wardrobes and accessories without too much expense. Her umbrella with interchangeable covers probably met a similar need in the fashion-conscious early 20th Century. (Do you care if your umbrella matches your outfit?)

More practical inventions included a bobbinless sewing machine – for which she should have received the Nobel Prize. Really, have you ever fussed with bobbins? She also created a kind of ice cream freezer, a device for making four copies of a letter at once, and a machine for mass-mailing envelopes. Ms Henry had women in mind – both domestically and in the office. Good for her.

Beulah Henry was a direct descendant of Patrick Henry. Oh, that means nothing to you Brits. Well, Patrick Henry was famous for making a speech that ended, 'Give me liberty, or give me death!'1 His inventor great-whatever-granddaughter might have said, 'Give us technology, or get out of our way!'

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

12.01.15 Front Page

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1Yes, he was insulting King George at the time. They didn't catch him, though.

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