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Who was Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner?


In the spirit of Black History Month, it seems incredibly important to highlight a Black woman that has played a major role in the history of sanitary pads. Unfortunately, as with a lot of Black innovators in history, her name and contributions have been swept under the table. Have you ever heard of the name Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner? There’s a good chance that this is your first time hearing of her and you’re probably wondering what she was responsible for. Mary Beatric Davidson Kenner was from Monroe, North Carolina and was a true innovator and pioneer in the production of menstrual products. Kenner came from a family of innovators so naturally when she came up with the idea for the sanitary belt for women, her family was not surprised.


In 1957, Kenner had saved up enough money for her first patent for a belt for sanitary napkins. She “proposed an adjustable belt with an inbuilt, moisture proof napkin pocket, making it less likely that menstrual blood could leak and stain clothes.” After the proposition of her idea, a company contacted her and expressed their interest in her idea. However, after the company found out that the idea came from a Black woman, they turned her down.


Unfortunately, Kenner was not given the opportunity most inventors in the history of menstrual products were given. Kenners invention was the quintessential precursor to self-adhesive maxi pads. However, according to interviews with Kenner, she doesn’t feel angry that she was counted out because she’s Black. She never amassed a huge fortune from her invention of the sanitary belt. In total, Kenner went on to file five patents, which is more than any other African American woman in history!


Along with the sanitary belt, Kenner patented a serving tray after her sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to get around with a walking from, a toilet tissue holder that always made sure the loose end of the roll was within reach and a back washer that could be attached to the wall of a shower to help people reach the parts of their back that were hard to get to. Kenner enjoyed what she did and made inventions to improve the quality of life for others. Her invention for the sanitary belt was finally patented after a long 30 years after it was introduced!


With the long history of menstrual products and sanitary pads, it’s important to take the time to acknowledge those that have created an impact that will live on forever. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was intelligent and a phenomenal innovator from the time she was a child until the day she died.


This Black History Month, we thank Mary Beatrice Davidson for her great contribution to women all across the world!


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