Known as a ‘mother of invention’ for her innovative and resourceful mind. She is the great inventor for the multi-billion-dollar industry: waterproof and disposable diapers. She was a committed and idealistic woman who made her home a laboratory for her inventions which aimed to give solutions to real-life troubles, especially for parents. She received 20 patents for her creations and was included in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the year 2015.
Five Facts About Marion Donovan
She is the inventor of the first waterproof diaper cover and disposable diapers
She used to have her creations rejected by various companies
For a decade, manufacturers did not recognize her innovations
She received a total of 20 patents for her creations
Inspirational Quotes from Marion Donovan
“Waterproof cover for diapers? Revolutionary! New!”
“I always wanted to be an architect. I am fascinated by structure.”
“I started very small. I had a lingerie manufacturer do it for me."
Marion Donovan Biography
Early Life and Education
Born in South Bend, Indiana on October 15, 1917, Marion Donovan was seven years old when her mother passed away in 1925. She grew up with her father who was also the inventor of an industrial lathe and managed the South Bend Lathe Works with his twin brother. Because of that, Marion spent most of her free time after school at the manufacturing plant, and her father, being an innovator and engineer, played a great part in inspiring Marion to become innovative at a young age. It resulted in great things such as Marion creating a new type of tooth cleaning powder when she was in elementary school with the help of her father.
Marion received a degree in Bachelor of Arts in English in 1939 at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania, and in 1958, a master’s degree in architecture at Yale University. She was one of only three women in her class. Marion then got a job at Vogue Magazine as an Assistant Beauty Editor in New York. She then resigned and moved to Westport, Connecticut to build a family with James F. Donovan in 1942. However, it didn’t work out. She then later got married and had children with John F. Butler in 1981.
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Marion’s creations were aimed to solve the problems of parents, which she faced as well herself when she became a mother. At the time, diapers were made out of cloth which meant that when babies wet themselves it meant getting their clothes and sheets dirty. It was incredibly inconvenient. Because of this, Marion decided to look for a way to invent a waterproof diaper to prevent dirt from seeping through the cloth. She used shower curtains for her prototypes until she successfully created what she called the ‘Boater’ to which she made out of nylon parachute cloth to prevent rashes, which was why her other versions didn’t work out. Safety pins, which were used by traditional diapers, were also replaced with plastic straps to avoid poking mothers and babies.
At first, no manufacturer wanted to accept her creation. So she decided to manufacture it on her own. The Boater made its debut in 1949 at the Saks Fifth Avenue New York and became an instant hit among families. Her great success gave her four patents for her creation in 1951. She sold it later to Keko Corporation for a million dollars.
Marion’s next goal was to create disposable diapers, and her prototypes were made using a special paper that was both absorbent and at the same time capable of pulling away moisture from the babies’ skin which conveniently lessens the risk of having rashes. Finding a manufacturer was hard and became impossible mostly because of sexism, but this didn’t stop her from receiving credits from later innovations which eventually led to the creation of disposable diapers. Disposable diapers were introduced by Procter and Gamble in 1961 in the United States.
At a young age, Marion was gifted with a natural inventive mind, that was nurtured by her father. As result, she was able to give solutions to various home problems with her inventions and was even able to design and put up her house. Among these inventions is the ‘Big Hangup’. It is a 30 garment compact hanger, an elastic cord that connects over the shoulder to the clothing’s zipper, the ‘Zippity-Do’, a soap dish, and the DentaLoop, a flossing agent which she made and marketed herself.
1946 – invented the waterproof diaper making prototypes out of shower curtains to solve issues on spillage and dirty sheets with her very own sewing machine at home.
1949 – the ‘Boater’ made its debut and became an instant hit. She sold her property rights to the Keko Corporation 2 years later.
1958 – Obtained a degree in architecture from Yale University and designed her house.
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