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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

An Arvo At The Movies And Women Inventors

Today, I went with my sister and two younger family members, to see the film Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence of Hunger Games fame, and Robert De Niro as her fatherNot sure why they chose it, but Dezzy, the elder, enjoyed it, while it was really too long for Rachel, who is twelve and more into action adventures and maybe some comedies.

But I found it intriguing, because it took me back to the days when I was researching for my children's history of women in science, Potions To Pulsars: Wonen Doing Science.  The heroine of this movie, based on the real-life Joy Mangano, invented something called the Miracle Mop, which was sold through a shopping channel in the late 80s. It was an early squeeze mop, and you could detach the head and wash it, ready to put back. I suspect since then someone has decided that "You'll never need another mop" was not a good idea as far as business was concerned. Apparently the mop was only one of about 100 patents she has taken out.

Why do I say it reminds me of my research for the book on women in science? Well, one of the things I learned in that research(I highly recommend a book called Mothers Of Invention:From The Bra To The Bomb!) is that, while women scientists have indeed discovered a lot of spectacular stuff, many things they have invented over the centuries were the sort of everyday things that we use and take for granted without even thinking about it, but would not like to be without. Science is about solving problems and there are a lot of problems to solve in everyday life, even without being funded and given a lab to work in. Even the basic tools of the chemistry lab are based on the tools of the kitchen. Think about it. What is cooking anyway but chemistry?

So, a woman who is tired of having to squeeze the damn mop every time she's washing the floor might well say, "What if I could squeeze it without having to touch it?" Not something that's going to make it into Nature or even New Scientist, but if you're a person who has to do housework you might just appreciate its being made easier. 

(And speaking of New Scientist, I got a short but positive review of Potions To Pulsars when it came out. No need to tell you how chuffed I was! ) 

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