In the 19th century, a series of innovations began making domestic life easier, freeing up time spent by chiefly women on household chores. It should be no surprise, then, that one of the most important developments was made by a woman. Josephine Cochrane exhibited her invention, the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher, at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

A Socialite and Inventor

Although Cochrane had no formal science education, her father was an engineer and her grandfather an inventor. She came up with the idea for an automatic dishwasher after being annoyed that her fine dishes were chipped by the servants during hand washing. She measured the plates, cups and saucers, creating a wire rack that would lie inside a copper boiler; hot, soapy washer was forced up onto the dishes. She filed her patent in 1886 and demonstrated it at the World’s Fair in 1893. Her primary customers for the device were hotels and restaurants rather than homemakers. The company created to manufacture her invention eventually became KitchenAid.