Friday, March 17, 2023

Women Invent Solutions!

March is Women’s History Month and today I’m reviewing books that highlight the contributions of women in STEM. 

theme: women’s history, invention, math

Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine: Josephine Cochrane's Bright Invention Makes a Splash 
by Kate Hannigan; illus. by Sarah Green 
40 pages; ages 7-10
Calkins Creek, 2023

Josephine Garis Cochran was a modern woman who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

But, one night after a dinner party she’d had enough of dirty hands – and dirty dishes! There must be a better way, she mused. Inventors were busy at work, devising machines and tinkering with electricity and even making a telephone. So Josephine decided to invent a machine to wash dishes.

What I like about this book: I love the language. There’s alliteration: saucers and soup bowls, tested and tinkered, pushed and persevered. There’s rhyme: pliers and wires. And I like the emphasis on revising, reworking, and rethinking.

Josephine’s first machine doesn’t work well at all, but she learned from her mistakes. And each time she redesigned her machine, she fixed a problem until at last – she had a working dishwashing machine!

I like that there is back matter: an author’s note about dishwashers and Josephine, and an introduction to more than a dozen notable women inventors. There’s also a timeline of “fascinating inventions” and a whole bunch of resources for kids who want to learn more.

The Brilliant Calculator: How Mathematician Edith Clarke Helped Electrify America 
by Jan Lower; illus. by Susan Reagan
40 pages; ages 7-10
Calkins Creek, 2023

Edith Clarke devoured numbers. Conquered calculations. Cracked puzzles.

She loves math, and dreams of building dams and bridges. Instead, she is sent to boarding school to learn manners and music and finished her schooling at the dawn of the twentieth century. Cars are on the road, inventors are testing flying machines – and Edith sees a place for her and her math in these new modern times.

She teaches physics, and eventually begins work as a human “computer” with engineers who are stringing the first phone wires across America. Why do voices fade on wires as distances grow? Edith finds out. In her free time she tackles problems related to electrical transmission lines, invents a tool that helps engineers solve problems faster, and sets the stage for our modern “smart electric grid.”

What I like about this book: One of my favorite spreads is the city street, with wires crossing every which way and a biplane above. Equations are integrated into the buildings to show how Edith saw the world. 

I also like the illustrations that show how she invented her calculating device and the pages that highlight quotes from Edith’s own writing. And there is back matter: an author’s note about Edith and more about her contributions to engineering; a timeline of Edith’s life; glossary; and short bios about more women mathematicians, inventors, and engineers.

Beyond the Books:

Learn more about women inventors. Need a place to start? Check out this post on A Mighty Girl blog.

Find out how modern dishwashers work. If you have one, take a good look inside – maybe the owner’s manual has some drawings. Or you can check out this video.

Be an inventor. What job do you do that you would like to see done mechanically? Invent a way! Think about what needs to be done, and how it could be done. Then draw up your invention designs.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website

Because these books appeal to older readers as well, we’ll be over at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, too. That happens at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. What a great share about two female inventors. Am curious what year Josephine invented her dishwasher -- always wondered who came up with the idea. I remember that they were a luxury in the 60s. Think we got one in the 70s. Also enjoyed Edith's certainly tackled some big problems as an inventor.

  2. What a nice duo of female inventors. Thanks for sharing and Happy MMGM.

  3. These look great! I didn’t know about these inventive women before. Thanks for introducing their stories to me. — Andrea Mack

  4. Thanks for featuring these two books about women whose life's work were new to me. A perfect share for Women's History Month.

  5. Wow. These both sound wonderful. I am going to have to read them. They also sound like great mentor texts. Thanks for the post.

  6. Thanks for sharing these. Loving the glimpse you've given us so far...