POWERING CHANGE: WOMEN IN INNOVATION & CREATIVITY

JOSEPHINE COCHRANE (B. 1839), the dishwasher, 1886

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Having the inventor of the steamboat as a grandfather may have had an impact on Josephine Cochrane’s invention curiosity. However, not much of her early childhood is known.

At 19, she married William Cochran. Showing early signs of her independence and confidence, she did take her husband’s name, but spelled it with an “e” on the end – much to the annoyance of her in-laws.

The Cochran’s lived well with a busy social life. After one dinner party, a servant chipped the heirloom china which annoyed Josephine so much that she refused to let the servants handle the china anymore. However, personally washing dishes by hand was not something she wanted to do and led Josephine to wonder why a machine had not been invented that could do it for her.

Fuelled by this idea, Josephine soon compiled the basic details of her invention. But when her husband died suddenly in 1883, leaving a mound of debt, her idea became a necessity for survival. Her first patent on the Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine was filed in 1886.

Initial success came from the catering industry, but she was soon meeting an increasing demand from a wide range of buyers including hospitals, colleges and homemakers.

In 1916, her company was posthumously bought out by the company now known as Whirlpool Corporation.

Our Corporate Marketing Business Director, Elaine McGrath, explains why Josephine Cochrane is her inspirational woman innovator.

 


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