Photo credits: U.S. Patent Office Records
Judy W. Reed is widely acknowledged as the first African American woman to be awarded a patent in the United States. Nonetheless, not very much is known about her.
Reed submitted a patent application for her “Dough Kneader and Roller” in the month of January in the year 1884. The submission was for an updated and more efficient design of previously existing dough kneaders. As the dough passed over two intermeshed rollers cut with corrugated slats that would function as kneaders, Reed’s invention allowed for a more equitable distribution of mixing throughout the process. After that, the dough was transferred into a container with a lid in order to shield it from the dust and other particles floating in the air.
Reed’s innovation was awarded patent number 305,474 on September 23, 1884, and was granted the patent for it. Prior to a 2011 report published by Black Past about Reed, there were no detailed records of her life.
As a result of the fact that women occasionally signed papers with their first and/or middle initials, often to conceal their gender, and that applicants for patents were not required to specify their race, it is unknown whether or not there were earlier African American women inventors prior to Reed.