Mary Beatrice Davidson – Inventor of the Sanitary Pad

Mary Beatrice Davidson – Inventor of the Sanitary Pad
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner 1912 – 2006

Who was she?

Born in Monroe County, NC in 1912

Mary Davidson was born to invent things.  Her first attempt was to make a self-oiling door so that when her mother went out the back door in the morning the squeaking wouldn’t wake her.

She was six.

Mary credits her father for encouraging her to explore things. She was bright and did well in school, but had to drop out of Howard after less than a year for lack of funds.

She never got an advanced degree.

Mary holds five patents. That is more than any other African American woman in history.


What did she invent?
Mary invented a number of things that improved the lives of women and people who needed extra assistance.
Her most famous invention was a sanitary belt attached to a pocket that was moisture proof.
She invented the belt first and patented the moisture proof pocket later.
The Sanitary belt and tissue holder.
There were not very many options for women who were menstruating back in the day. They used wads of cloth or rags, and it wasn’t advisable to leave the house. There were tampons, but it was considered scandalous to use them. Mary’s invention addressed the problem.
She added a cloth pouch with a moistureproof seal that attached to the belt. You put rags or cotton into the pouch. It was the pocket for padding and the moisture proof seal that made it revolutionary. Mary Beatrice Davidson had invented the first generation of what would eventually be called the sanitary pad or napkin.
It meant you could actually go out in public without fear of getting blood everywhere.
When she first patented it, a company sent a representative down to speak to her. when they found out she was black, they lost interest. It was 30 years before anyone picked up the patent and started manufacturing them.
She also designed an improved bathroom tissue holder that allowed the dangling end of the tissue to be accessible at all times.
When her sister Mildred – an inventor in her own right –  was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Mary invented and patented a tray and carrier that attaches to a walker.
Mary also invented a back washer that attaches to the wall for people who would find it hard to wash their backs any other way.

Inventing Because It Was Fun
Mary did not make money off of any of her inventions, but she never lost the joy of making things.
She owned her own florist business in Washington DC until her death in 2006.
Thank you, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner for making “that time of the month” less burdensome for women.
Celebrate Black History!

Day 1 – The ABC’s of Black History Month