This question must sound familiar. It may not be uttered by grocery clerks as often these days, but it is a phrase that brings back memories while checking out my food items. Such a simple question and such an item that holds so much history. The paper bag with a flat bottom can only be given credit not to the domestic food industry, but to a little girl who once worked in a cotton mill in 1856.
Flat bottom paper bags were invented in 1868. This is how long we’ve had this sustainable convenience. When Margaret Knight invented a machine that folded and glued paper to form a flat bottom, she was on the cusp of bringing convenience for decades to come. But what made Knight so noteworthy in history that she has been called “the most famous 19th century woman inventor”?
Knight had brass ovaries. (Definition for ‘brass ovaries’: the female equivalent to the male counterpart when describing courage and strength.)
Margaret had been scrutinized by phrases such as “what does a woman know about machines?” However, this never stopped her as inventing had been a part of her life since adolescence. Margaret was bright but had an unfortunate circumstance where a man name Charles Annan stole her idea. At the time, he was in the machine shop where her iron prototype was built, and he stole it to claim it as his own patent. This is when her strength truly shone through. Margaret took Annan to court and sued him for theft of her invention. With copious amounts of evidence to support her claim, Margaret won her lawsuit and carried on to form her own company called the Easter Paper Bag Company. From there, she was decorated in 1871 by Queen Victoria and curated over eighty-nine inventions by the end of her life.
Have you ever had a man (or woman) put you down in your career or felt controlled by a ‘man’s world’? If you have, well, you are not alone. Women still face many stereotypes and it’s up to you to break that mold and set precedent. If you are ever at a crossroads and unsure of how to approach a sexist situation, think like Margaret. Your ideas have value just like anyone else’s. Feel empowered knowing that you have brass ovaries too.