This week we are highlighting Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner on our blog.
Born in 1912 in Monroe, North Carolina, Kenner was an American inventor and floral designer. Her father, Sidney Nathaniel Davidson, patented a clothing press that was so small for the time that it could fit in suitcases. He went on to invent other things like a stretcher with wheels for hospitals, but made little to no money from them.
Regardless, she credits his innovation as her sparking interest in invention. She went on to finish high school in 1931 and attended Howard University for some time before having to leave due to financial difficulties.
We here at Yonitox are especially grateful for her work inventing the sanitary belt which included an inbuilt, moisture-proof napkin pocket. Effectively, she created the period panty that we all know and love today.
Kenner eventually saved enough money for patenting the product. The company first showed interest in the product but later rejected it after discovering that she was African American. After some time, from the years of 1956 to 1987, she received 5 patents for her personal item inventions such as a toilet paper holder and a carrier attachment for a walker.
Along with her many inventions, she was an entrepreneur and floral designer, with four flower shops around the Washington D.C. area. This is where she eventually passed in 2006. She was 93.
Menstrual activism and period products that we see today are built on the work of African American inventors like Kenner. We are grateful to her for building a foundation for us to experience our periods at a level of comfort and openness that was not possible 100 years ago.
Stay tuned for another featured African American menstrual activist next week. If there are more activists and organizations that you want to see highlighted, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
Photo credit: Stylist