Before the modern day sanitary pads and tampons, American inventor and professional floral arranger Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner born in the US state of North Carolina in 1912, developed the sanitary belt. However, racial discrimination prevented its adoption thereby depriving her of due credit.
As early as the 1890s, belts for holding pads were already being advertised, however, Kenner did a patent in 1956 to develop it. Her invention featured an adjustable sanitary belt with an inbuilt, moisture-proof napkin pocket.
Kenner’s was the first product with an adhesive to secure the pad. It “eliminated ‘chafing and irritation normally caused by devices of this class’ and could be adjusted to fit women of different sizes”, according to the New York Times.
Due to racial discrimination however, the company that first showed interest in her invention, the Sonn-Nap-Pack Company, rejected it after they discovered that she was African American. It was a whole thirty years later before its adoption. As a result, Kenner never made any money off of the sanitary belt, because her patent expired and became public domain, allowing it to be manufactured freely.
Kenner also filed four other patents in her lifetime. A curious mind, she had already started inventing from age 6, she helped fix a squeaky door by inventing a self oiling door. Apart from the sanitary belt, she shared the patent on the toilet tissue holder with her sister, Mildred Davidson which was created to be more accessible for blind individuals and people with arthritis, held a patent on a back washer that could be mounted on the shower or bathtub wall as patented the carrier attachment for a walker in 1959, after sis Mildred developed multiple sclerosis.
Kenner came from a family of inventors:
Her father, who greatly influnced her, Sidney Nathaniel Davidson (June 1890-November 1958) patented a clothing press which would fit in suitcases – he ultimately made no money on the invention. He also patented a window washer for trains and invented a stretcher with wheels for ambulances. Her grandfather invented a light signal for trains, though this invention was stolen from him. Her sister, Mildred Davidson Austin Smith (1916–1993) invented and commercially sold board games.
Kenner (May 17, 1912 – January 13, 2006) was married to a renowned heavyweight boxer named Jack “Jabbo” Johnson. Together, they lived in McLean, Virginia, near the Kennedy’s complex. They were foster parents to five boys.
Although the prolific inventor family never did make moneys from their inventions, they succeeded however in improving quality of lives for others.