Mary Anderson

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Mary Anderson, born 1866 in Alabama, invented the windshield wiper and was granted a 17- year patent for it in 1903.

She was not an engineer but an entrepreneur, real estate developer, rancher, viticulturist as well as an inventor.

She saw the opportunity to make travelling safer in bad weather by creating a wiper that was operated from inside a vehicle, which had not been thought of before. She hired a designer and used a local company to build a prototype.

She tried to sell the idea to car manufacturers, but was ahead of her time. It was turned down as having no commercial value. However, in 1920, the patent lapsed and her design became standard equipment in the rapidly growing automobile industry. 

She made no money from her invention and her family believe it was because she was an independent woman in a world run by men. 

She died, aged 87, in Tennessee.

Adapted from Wikipedia