Humble Genius

Humble Genius

Written on 08/05/2023

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an African-American inventor most noted for her development of the sanitary belt  (now known as the Maxi-Pad) that changed women's feminine care forever. 

In the past, tampons were available to women, but they were discouraged from using them because it was considered “indecent.” Another alternative was to use a cloth or rag, but this method was often unsanitary and inconvenient. Women and girls who opted for cloth usually needed to stay indoors during their time of the month. Sanitary belts were not only more practical, but they were also more liberating. 

Kenner invented the sanitary belt with moisture-proof napkin pocket. The sanitary napkin wasn't used until 1956, thirty years after she had first invented it. The company that first showed interest in her invention rejected it after they discovered that she was an African American woman.

Between 1956 and 1987 she received five patents for her household and personal item creations. She invented a bathroom tissue holder which she patented with patent number US 4354643, on October 19, 1982, and a back washer mounted on the shower or bathtub wall, which she patented in 1987.

“My inventions were never about money. I just want to help make life easier for people.”

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