Born in Monroe, North Carolina on May 17, 1912, Kenner came from a family of inventors. But she didn't really want to make money with her inventions. Kenner simply wanted to make everyone's life a little easier.
In 1956, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner took on two massive taboo topics head-on: Menstruation and Black women in business. She was a driven inventor who created one of the first menstrual hygiene tools that would later go on to pave the way for sanitary pads: Kenner invented the sanitary belt.
KNOW HER NAME 👑— The Wing (@the_wing) January 25, 2019
Mary Kenner was an inventor who received 5 patents for maxi pads, toilet paper holder, & the carrier attachment on walkers for handicapped people. Mary created these items because she enjoyed making life easier for people & it was never about the money. pic.twitter.com/82SB2aYsu3
Born in Monroe, North Carolina on May 17, 1912, Kenner came from a family of inventors. She credited her thirst for discovery to her father, Sidney Nathaniel Davidson, who invented the pants presser. Kenner's sister Mildred Davidson Austin Smith was also an inventor, so was her grandfather, Robert Phromeberger.
She invented the sanitary belt w/moisture proof napkin pocket yet wasn't used until 30 yrs after she had invented it. The company that first showed interest in her invention rejected it after they discovered she was an African American woman. “ Learn more about Mary Kenner. pic.twitter.com/gUflaZJ9IT— PeriodProjectSC™ (@periodprojectsc) July 19, 2018
Kenner was a curious child growing up. Constantly asking herself the question "how can this be improved?" gave her an intense drive to seek, discover and create. Her biggest curiosity was making the menstrual experience an easier one for women, who at the time were using cloths or rags during their time of the month.
But for the women and girls who used cloth and rags, it meant sitting indoors without moving around too much. To combat this problem, Kenner invented the sanitary belt: a device that was built to hold a sanitary napkin in place. It even had a moisture-proof napkin pocket. With the practicality of the sanitary belt, women, and girls felt liberated.
Even though the sanitary belt was a much better alternative for women, it would take another 30 years for Kenner to be able to patent her invention. This was because when she first brought the sanitary belt to interested clients in 1956, they turned Kenner away because she was Black.
While disabled from multiple sclerosis, Kenner went on to invent The Walker.— Da Adult (@kidnoble) March 15, 2016
"I was so jubilant," Kenner said. "I saw houses, cars, and everything about to come my way. Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested."
Kenner began coming up with inventions when she was just as little girl alongside her sister Mildred Davidson Austin Smith.— Da Adult (@kidnoble) March 15, 2016
But the low blow didn't stop her passion for creating things. She went on to invent and patent several other inventions which were aimed simply at improving one's everyday life. Kenner's main inspiration is her own words of encouragement: "every person is born with a creative mind. Everyone has that ability."
This is Mary Kenner: She was an inventor & created household items. Most notably the "Sanitary Belt" which we now call Maxi Pads. Her courage & drive to challenge Sexist oppression was largely fueled by her Father, who encouraged & reassured her that her Gender was a strength. pic.twitter.com/49MIJLH1w8— Madame Margherite (@MadamMargherite) February 17, 2018
Kenner would continue working as a professional flower arranger and even had her own business in Washington DC. She didn't really want to make money, Kenner simply wanted to make everyone's life a little easier.