When we talk of inventors, especially Black inventors, one name doesn’t come up too often: Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner. Haven’t heard of her? You’re not alone.
Kenner did not receive any college degree or professional training, and she never became rich from her inventions, yet she was instrumental in creating something that has helped billions of women worldwide: the sanitary belt, the precursor to menstrual pads that women still use today.
Women like Kenner were kept out of most scientific establishments and academic institutions for centuries, but they carried on anyway.
They transformed their bedrooms into laboratories, turned coat hangers into scientific equipment, and in the case of Kenner, saved and scraped and believed in their own patents.
Kenner was born in North Carolina and came from a family of inventors. Her father, who she credited for her initial interest in discovery, was Sidney Nathaniel Davidson (June 1890-November 1958). In her lifetime, he patented a clothing press which would fit in suitcases, though he ultimately made no money on the invention.
Her grandfather also invented a light signal for trains, and