Women In History: Marion Donovan

Marion O'Brien Donovan | Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and  Innovation

Marion O’Brien Donovan (October 15, 1917 – November 4, 1998) was an American inventor and entrepreneur.

Marion was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana where her father and his twin brother had invented an industrial lathe that could be used in grinding automobile gears. Their invention achieved much success.

After her mother’s death when she was seven, Marion would spend a considerable amount of time at the factory where her father encouraged her curiosity. When she wanted to create a new form of tooth powder, he helped show her what she needed to do to come up with the product. In the process, he taught her what could be accomplished with a little bit of curiosity.

That curiosity would guide her to become one of the most prolific female inventors of her time, receiving 20 patents in total for her inventions. Donovan was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.

Her most notable innovation is the invention of a reusable, leak-proof waterproof diaper cover in 1946 after many iterations. This led to her invention of the disposable paper diaper, which was eventually commercialized by Victor Mills, the creator of Pampers.

Donovan also invented additional practical solutions to problems around the home.

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CLIPPED FROM: The Indianapolis News
Indianapolis, Indiana / 18 Nov 1998, Wed • Page 29
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Oklahoman
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma / 09 Aug 2005, Tue • Page 31
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CLIPPED FROM: The Cecil Whig
Elkton, Maryland / 21 Mar 2012, Wed • Page 8

Additional Reading and Links:

https://invention.si.edu/node/28532/p/597-marion-o-brien-donovan

https://sova.si.edu/record/NMAH.AC.0721

https://www.invent.org/blog/inventors/marion-donovan-diaper

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