Influential Women to celebrate during Manufacturing Month

October has been designated as Manufacturing Month.  We celebrate it all month but on the first Friday of the month we get to introduce middle and high school students to the manufacturing industry.  Since the start of manufacturing day/month in 2012, colleges especially the community colleges have seen an increase in admissions especially with the female students.  The following 5 women are historical influential women in manufacturing and serve as great role models.

Boston Sunday Post - 1912
Margaret Knight
( was born in 1838 in York Maine.  After her father died, she and her family moved to Manchester, Maine. When she was 12, she witnessed an accident at the local mill while delivering lunch to her brother.  Two weeks after the accident she had invented a safety device that was adopted by Manchester Mills.  This safety devise was never patented.  In 1867 she moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and worked for Columbia Paper Bag Company.  In 1868 she invented the machine that folded and glued paper to create a square-bottom bag - the paper bag.  She received her patent in 1871 and with a Massachusetts business partner she established the Eastern Paper Bag Company.  She is recognized as being one of the first women awarded a U.S. Patent and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“Rosie the Riveter”, ( an icon during World War II that empowered women in the manufacturing industry.  During WWII, women replaced men who joined the military in factories and shipyards.  With women working in these positions that were so different than running their households, it gave them a new found purpose and started advances towards equal rights.  This was also the turning point where it wasn’t just men that could use a drill, lathe or riveter.  With women stepping up and working in a man’s position during the war, women realized they can do the job just like a man.

Stephanie Kwolek ( was born to Polish immigrant parents in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  She spent a lot of her time with her father exploring the natural world.  She got her interest in science from her father and interest in fashion from her mother.   She received her Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Chemistry from Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Carnegie Mellon University.  With a plan to become a doctor so she decided to get a temporary job to save money for school.  She was offered a position at the DuPont facility in Buffalo NY.  She enjoyed she job so much that she stayed.  In 1964, she and her team invented Kevlar which was stronger than nylon. 

Madam C.J. Walker ( was an African American woman.  While growing up she suffered from severe dandruff and scalp aliments from different harsh soaps and lye that was used in that era.  She learned about hair care from her bother who was a barber and took that and created her own product line.  In 1906 she marketed herself as an independent hairdresser and retailer of cosmetic creams.  In 1910 she established the headquarters for the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. Later she would build a factory, hair salon and a beauty school to train sales agents.  She would also add a laboratory to help with research.

Ella Mae Wiggins ( was a single mother of 5 living in Gaston County NC.  She worked as a spinner in America Mill.  She later became a bookkeeper for the union.  In the 1920’s she wrote ballads to support strikers.  She also had traveled to Washington DC to testify about labor practices and also lobbied to have African American to be admitted into the National Transport Workers Union.

With these women and many more throughout the world, it shows that we can do anything we put our mind and heart to.  For more information about Women in manufacturing you can contact Marilyn Barger at or visit and watch FLATE’s Women in Manufacturing video.

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