POWERING CHANGE: WOMEN IN INNOVATION & CREATIVITY

Maria beasley (b.1847), life raft, 1882

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Innovation is all about taking risks; something that serial American inventor and entrepreneur Maria Beasley would have understood better than most. 
A former dress maker and aged 44, Maria put down the threading needle and embarked on a new career as a serial inventor.

With her first patent granted in 1878 for a barrel-hooping machine that helped speed up the manufacture of barrels, Maria was off to a successful start. Her invention could make 1,500 barrels a day and earned her a good living, with the Evening Star writing in 1889 that she "made a small fortune". While her other inventions included foot warmers, cooking pans and anti-derailment devices for trains, it was Maria’s improved life raft design that earned her most renown in 1882. Most rafts of the era were simply made with a plank of wood, but Maria’s design was fire-proof, compact, safe and easy to launch – with protective guard railings too.

These life rafts were on board one of the world’s most notorious passenger liners – The Titanic - when it sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in April 1912. Maria’s rafts help save 706 lives, keeping men, women and children safe until help could arrive.

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