Josephine Garis Cochran, inventor of the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher.

It’s almost another Mother’s Day, people! Hurry, you still have enough time to grab a card, some flowers, a couple gifts, and whatever else you need to give your mother the perfect Mother’s Day. She deserves it!

Here at The Idea Forge, we love to celebrate entrepreneurs who take the innovative leap that pushes our country even further into the future. But Mother’s Day has opened a unique new opportunity for us. We’re going to celebrate the most innovative women we know, our Mothers Of Invention. And Chicago’s got a lot of them.

Let’s meet a few of Chicago’s Mothers Of Invention.  

Elizabeth Magie

Magie's Original Patent

Magie’s Original Patent

If you’ve ever played Monopoly, you’ve got one woman to thank; Elizabeth Magie. Lizzie, as she was affectionately referred, was an American game designer born in Macomb, Illinois in 1866. She became fascinated with the economic writings of Henry George and had the brilliant idea of turning it into a board game. But before it was Monopoly, it was The Landlord’s Game, which was intended to illustrate the economic consequences of Ricardo’s Law of Economic Rent and the Georgist concepts of economic privilege and land value taxation. So, in other words, if you’ve ever gotten in a confusing fight with your family over a game of Monopoly, it’s Elizabeth Magie’s fault.

Josephine Garis Cochrane

Cochrane's Original Invention

Cochrane’s Original Invention

Do you have a dishwasher? Are you thankful for it? Do you laugh in the faces of your non-dishwasher-owning friends? Then you owe Josephine Garis Cochrane a big high five, because she invented it. There had been other attempts to produce a commercially viable dishwasher. Other men had tried other designs of a dishwasher, but they didn’t exactly work out.

It wasn’t until Cochrane’s design that the dishwasher became a commercial product. She debuted it at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and won the highest prize for “best mechanical construction, durability, and adaptation to its line of work.” Soon, Cochrane was getting orders from restaurants and hotels for her brilliant design. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the dishwasher became a common household item after new suburban homes were built. So, if you’re not scrubbing your dishes by hand, you’ve got to thank Josephine Garis Cochrane.

Dr. Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison at the Kennedy Space Station

Jemison at the Kennedy Space Station

While she’s not an inventor, per se, Dr. Mae Jemison is a pioneer and a brilliant scientist. An American physicist, Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison joined the Peace Corps where she was later selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps.

In 1993, she resigned from NASA to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. When she resigned she stated, “I left NASA because I’m interested in how social sciences interact with technologies. People always think of technology as something having silicon in it. But a pencil is technology. Any language is technology. Technology is a tool we use to accomplish a particular task and when one talks about appropriate technology in developing countries, appropriate may mean anything from fire to solar electricity.”

Dr. Mae Jemison is about as brilliant as you can get, and while she hasn’t invented anything, she is of a genius mind, and the world is lucky to have her.

We know this isn’t the end of Chicago’s Mothers of Inventions. There’s no better place in the country where you can find such a passion for the entrepreneurial spirit. Stay tuned for more of Chicago’s future Mothers of Invention, you can count on it.

Can’t get enough of these Mothers Of Invention? Take a look at some of the world’s most innovative women – from New Haven, to Denver, to Nashville – and how they launched our country even further into the future. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.