Ada Lovelace Day: Sarah Goode

It’s Ada Lovelace Day again: time to celebrate women in science and technology. Perhaps influenced by all the historical research going on around me, I wanted to find a woman at least as far back as the 19th century, so I decided to focus on Sarah E. Goode, who was not only an early inventor but one of the first African-American women to secure a patent. Although born a slave in 1850, after the war she went north and became an entrepreneur. While living in Chicago and running her own furniture store, she came up with an idea for the Cabinet Bed, a folding bed that doubled as a writing desk when not in use. Ingenious!

Goode submitted her idea and was granted a patent on July 14, 1885 (Patent #322,177, for a cabinet bed). There are some discrepancies in the records of the times — was there more than one Sarah Goode? Did the details get mixed up between two different ones? It’s difficult to be sure: but one of those Sarahs was the inventor of this inspiring mechanical piece that doubtless sold well in her store to all those city dwellers pressed for space.

Have you got a story about a woman in science and technology to share?


  1. The Queen says:

    Oh, I can see you need one of those bed/desks!

  2. Катя says: out Sofia Kovalevskaya, a 19th century Russian woman with passion and talent for mathematics and physics.

  3. K. A. Laity says:

    QoE — you bet I do!Катя — excellent! What a fascinating woman.

  4. Todd Mason says:

    Vivian Gornick's WOMEN IN SCIENCE is an old favorite of mine. Emma Goldman managed to champion then-modern methods and greater access to birth control (among so much else) without choosing to embrace the Eugenics bullshit that Margaret Sanger played with. And Joanna Russ was a finalist in a Westinghouse HS Science Talent Search…pity nobody studying with Leakey chose to go look at bonobos. Or, for that matter, gibbons and siamangs.

  5. K. A. Laity says:

    Oh Todd, it's always bonobos with you ;-)When is Russ going to get the recognition she deserves? I mention her name where people ought to recognize it and few do.

  6. I offer Wilma Mankiller (love that name somehow), first woman to be elected Chief of all the Cherokee people. Then there's Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize for her work in medicine. Perhaps not as spectacular as Ada Byron Lovelace, but certainly her match is spirit and determination. Wonderful post Kate. Thanks for another place (and group of people to visit each week. LOL.

  7. K. A. Laity says:

    Jack, delighted to have you drop by — thanks for the new names, too. I knew about Mankiller but not Yalow. Much to learn, always.

  8. Todd Mason says:

    Acutally, Jack, Wilma Mankiller (it is an impressive family name) was the elected Chief/President of the Western Cherokee nation, based in Oklahoma (or "Indian Country" as it was officially known till shortly before statehood); the Eastern Nation, based in North Carolina, wasn't involved.Writes the man descended from some of the Cherokee who escaped into the West Virgina mountains rather than be forced on the Trail of Tears and the eventual diplacement to proto-Oklahoma.But Mankiller's pretty cool…for a Westie.Russ will never get her due…too prickly and un-self-promoting, despite THE FEMALE MAN being about as much a winner for Bantam Books in the '70s as DHALGREN (and moreso than any of the other sf titles they had under Frederik Pohl's rather good editorship–while the Del Reys flooded the field with cookie-cutter items that sold well), and both of those only available from small presses now.

  9. Todd Mason says:

    Ah. I should mention that other division of Oklahoma (mostly)-based Cherokees, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. They often have some hassles with the Cherokee Nation of the west.

  10. K. A. Laity says:

    I'm coming to the conclusion that cookie cutters is just what people want. I need to get better about fitting myself to the mold. Yeah, that's going to work. I do my part: teaching THE FEMALE MAN has been fun and now spreading the word on her essay collection as well lately. Canon shifts are slow, but I'm putting my shoulder to the wheel.

  11. Todd Mason says:

    THE COUNTRY YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN, I gather? TO WRITE LIKE A WOMAN, the great and challenging MAGIC MOMMAS, TREMBLING SISTERS, PURITANS AND PERVERTS: FEMINIST ESSAYS (which was republished by some wimp publisher with another title) and HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING all good to read…when you can find them. Along with the fiction: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON, (EXTRA)ORDINARY PEOPLE, and the Alyx stories…and, at least, ON STRIKE AGAINST GOD.

  12. I like the way you cut cookies Kate, if Unikirja is an excellent sample of your work. And I hope you continue to undermine the current cultural and educational tackiness with challenging reading assignments. Is a course in Harlan Ellison next (I hope)?Rock on milady. 🙂

  13. K. A. Laity says:

    LOL — well, I don't think Ellison will make the list anytime soon, but I have a wealth of possibilities before me. I am itching to do Riddley Walker again — such satisfaction with that book and so much for a medievalist to say — and I'm not done with my Mr Punch fascination yet, either.

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