Mary Kenner: Inventor of the Sanitary Belt

Mary Kenner: Inventor of the Sanitary Belt

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was born May 17, 1912, in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. She later moved to Washington, D.C., graduated high school, and attended Howard University but didn't finish because of financial difficulties. During World War II, Mary worked for the Census Bureau and General Accounting Office. She later became a professional florist and owned four flower shops in the D.C. area. However, Mary came from a family of inventors who invented window washers for trains, light signals for trains, stretchers with wheels for ambulances, board games, etc. It was destined that she would follow in their footsteps.

Mary Kenner invented the toilet tissue holder, a back washer that could be mounted on the shower or bathtub wall, a walker with an attachable tray and pocket for carrying items. But in 1954, she started the process of filing for her first patent, the sanitary belt. Mary's invention was the first device used to hold sanitary napkins in place since most women used napkins, rags, and cloth pads during those times. It was an adjustable belt with an inbuilt, moisture-proof napkin pocket, making it less likely to leak menstrual blood and stain clothes. The patent wasn't registered until 1957 because it was costly, and she experienced racism during the process. Mary even had companies interested in marketing her idea, but they would turn down her sanitary belt after meeting her because she was a woman of African descent. Her invention blazed the trail for the beltless menstrual pads that we have today.