Innovations in technology and science have and continue to change the world. While all people have been affected as a result, there are a few inventions and milestones which changed the world for women. Here are just some of the inventions that changed women’s lives, and as a result society, forever.
The birth control pill
Today, many women are on some kind of birth control, enabling them to decide when they want children. Not that long ago, as close as the 1950s, women who fell pregnant had no other option but to continue the birth or undergo illegal and dangerous abortions. Both these decisions made it harder for women to participate in the work force, build a career or have control over how many children they have to take care of.
The birth control was approved by the FDA in the 1960s and was only given out to married women. Even restricting it to this group had major impacts since these women could choose to have less children. In the past they relied on male-centric options and if they husband refused they had no say. Having fewer children or delaying starting a family also helped the boom in women in the workplace, as they didn’t have to be home taking care of the kids.
The washing machine
It may seem like a stereotype, but the reality was that women were given tasks in the household for much of history. One really onerous task was washing with a mangle in a big tub, with some households taking weeks just to clean the necessary items. Labour-saving devices freed up time, which allowed women to complete other tasks like joining the workforce or getting an education.
Washing machines were first invented in the 1800s in France. They were initially only something the rich could afford but as technology improved and manufacturing became cheaper, more people could afford these major time savers.
While major improvements have been made, childbirth is still a significant cause of death worldwide. While there are many inventions that have improved maternal mortality, forceps helped with the very common problem of babies who come through the birth canal incorrectly. Invented in the 16th century by French Huguenots, forceps only became popular in the 18th and 19th century, according to Bustle. The forceps are a curved shape and fit around the babies head. The physician gently pulls with each contraction to help the baby come through the birth canal. Previously, babies who were stuck suffered low oxygen and mothers in long labour died as a result of infection.
Pads and tampons
Women have always had periods but in the past managing them every month wasn’t as easy as it is today. Items like wool, moss, animal skin and old rags were used which were unsanitary and made it difficult to go on with every day tasks. Nurses in France are noted as creating the first disposable sanitary pad which were used to stop excessive bleeding in soldiers. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th Century that the disposable pd became more accessible, though still only for those with the money for them. Tampons, or variations on the concept, have been noted through history but the tampon as we know it today only came about in the 20th Century.
These products freed women from the confines of their homes during their periods and gave them discreet, effective and more sanitary ways to manage them. This problem is not fully solved however, with those who don’t have access regularly missing school or not being able to work. But overall, the improvement in menstrual products made it safe and easy for women to catch-up to their male counterparts by going to school and joining the workforce.
The cesarean section has always been attributed to Julius Caesar, after Pliny the Elder suggested he was named after an ancestor who was born through this method. However, c-sections as we know them today, where the mother survives the surgery, were first recorded in the 1580s in Siegersausen, Switzerland. As time went on, methods to ensure safer c-sections improved until c-sections were no longer deadly with bleeding, proper stitching and proper anesthetics being properly administered. The option of a c-section improved maternal and child mortality and gave women more options when it came to how they want to give birth.