Women were allowed to patent inventions under the Patent Act of 1790, but in many states women could not legally own property independent of their husbands. This might have been a barrier for some women applying for patents. What’s the point of applying for a patent if you can’t own the company that makes the profit from your invention? To get around this, when women had ideas, the patents were applied for in the name of a brother or father, to keep the invention and possibility for profit within the family.
Many of you who read this blog are women who have small businesses of your own. You are doll makers, shop owners, pattern makers. You understand the amount of thought, creativity and follow-through it takes to be a working artist and business person. Imagine trying to run your business and not be allowed to own it. Imagine developing an idea and having to pass it off as your brother’s or father’s invention. In 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed in New York. I wonder what newspapers Izannah read, and if news of this movement fueled her views about her own work and life?
The fact that Izannah did eventually apply for the patent in her own name tells us something about Izannah. At the age of 56, she was successful enough to take the time and money to pay a lawyer to apply for a patent. It tells us that she thought it was important to claim her creation as her own. And perhaps her application of a patent in her own name makes a statement about women as contributors in the American society in which she lived.