Mary Kies Receives the First Patent by a Woman in US

Mary Dixon Kies (March 21, 1752 – 1837) was an early 19th-century American who was the first recipient of a patent granted to a woman by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, on May 5, 1809, which was for a technique of weaving straw with silk and thread.

Straw weaving was an economically vital industry in America during the 1800s. Women wore straw hats for working in the field. The Patent Act of 1790 opened the door for anyone, male or female, to protect his or her invention with a patent. However, because in many states women could not legally own property independent of their husbands, many women inventors didn't bother to patent their new inventions. Mary Kies broke that pattern on May 5, 1809.

Mary Kies was not the first American woman to improve hat-making. In 1798, New Englander Betsy Metcalf invented a method of braiding straw. Her method became very popular, and she employed many women to make her hats, but she didn't patent her process. When asked why, Metcalf said she didn't want her name being sent to Congress. Kies had a different perspective, and she couldn't have picked a better time to secure her new product, because the U.S. government had stopped importing European goods. (Napoleon was at war with many nations of Europe at the time, and one way he tried to win the war was to block trade and hurt his enemies economically. The U.S. did not want to be drawn into this conflict.) President James Madison was looking for American industries to replace the lost European goods.

Her technique proved valuable in making cost-effective work bonnets. In so doing, she bolstered New England's hat economy, which had been faltering due to the European embargo. Straw bonnets manufactured in Massachusetts alone in 1810 had an estimated value of more than $500,000 or over $4.7 million in today's money. Dolley Madison honored her for this work.

Her original patent file was destroyed in a fire at the United States Patent Office in 1836.

Kies was unsuccessful in her attempts to profit from her invention, however, and died penniless in Brooklyn, New York in 1837.

ave you ever invented something? If you have, you may want to do what Mary Kies did: patent it. The Patent Act of 1790 opened the door for anyone, male or female, to protect his or her invention with a patent. However, because in many states women could not legally own property independent of their husbands, many women inventors didn't bother to patent their new inventions. Mary Kies broke that pattern on May 5, 1809. She became the first woman to receive a U.S. patent for her method of weaving straw with silk. With her new method, Kies could make and sell beautiful hats such as this one, and, by law, no one else could sell hats just like hers. That's how a patent works.

What if you come up with a great idea for a new invention? The Good-Hair-Day Hairspray, the perfect spiral football, a backpack that flies you to school. To protect your new invention, you would get a patent. A patent is a government grant that gives the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention, usually for a limited period. Nowadays it's 16 to 20 years in most countries. Patents are granted to new and useful machines, manufactured products, industrial processes--such as Kies's method of weaving--and significant improvements of existing processes. Patents encourage entrepreneurs, like weaver and hat maker Mary Kies, to create new and better products all the time.

Mary Kies was not the first American woman to improve hat making. In 1798, New Englander Betsy Metcalf invented a method of braiding straw. Her method became very popular, and she employed many women to make her hats, but she didn't patent her process. When asked why, Metcalf said she didn't want her name being sent to Congress. Kies had a different perspective, and she couldn't have picked a better time to secure her new product, because the U.S. government had stopped importing European goods. (Napolean was at war with many nations of Europe at the time, and one way he tried to win the war was to block trade and hurt his enemies economically. The U.S. did not want to be drawn into this conflict.) President Madison was looking for American industries to replace the lost European goods. First lady Dolley Madison said hats off to Mary Kies for providing just such an opportunity.

On May 15 1809, Mary Dixon Kies received the first U. S. patent issued to a woman. Kies, a Connecticut native, invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. First Lady, Dolley Madison praised her for boosting the nation’s hat industry. Unfortunately, the patent file was destroyed in the great Patent Office fire in 1836. Until about 1840, only 20 other patents were issued to women. The inventions related to apparel, tools, cook stoves, and fire places.

The Patent Act of 1790 opened the door for anyone, male or female, to protect his or her invention with a patent. However, because in many states women could not legally own property independent of their husbands, many women inventors didn't bother to patent their new inventions. Mary Kies broke that pattern on May 5, 1809.

Mary Kies was not the first American woman to improve hat making. In 1798, New Englander Betsy Metcalf invented a method of braiding straw. Her method became very popular, and she employed many women to make her hats, but she didn't patent her process. When asked why, Metcalf said she didn't want her name being sent to Congress. Kies had a different perspective, and she couldn't have picked a better time to secure her new product, because the U.S. government had stopped importing European goods. (Napolean was at war with many nations of Europe at the time, and one way he tried to win the war was to block trade and hurt his enemies economically. The U.S. did not want to be drawn into this conflict.) President Madison was looking for American industries to replace the lost European goods. First lady Dolley Madison said hats off to Mary Kies for providing just such an opportunity.