“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” While most people remember Thomas Edison as a most prolific inventor whose devices ushered in the modern world, he was also a speaker of truth.
Few people would have looked at Beulah Louise Henry and compared her to Thomas Alva Edison. Most would have seen just a pretty face but she quickly changed that perception. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in North Carolina, Beulah was educated at Elizabeth College. At the age of twenty-five she received her first patent for a vacuum Ice Cream Freezer. In 1932 she received a patent for a typewriter that could produce four copies of a page.
Beulah Henry explored her “girly” side as well. Among her 49 patents and one hundred and ten inventions is the umbrella with a removable cover that could be changed so as to coordinate with one’s outfit. She also invented soap-filled sponges for children known as Dolly Dips, a bobbin-less sewing machine, and linked envelopes for greater ease in mass mailings.
Some of Beulah Henry’s inventions were for industry. Her Henry valve for inflatable devices is still being sold today. Other inventions were of a more whimsical nature like movable eyes for dolls. Thomas Edison once said “There is no substitution for hard work” and Beulah Henry lived that maxim. She started two companies after she moved to New York in the mid 1920’s. She later worked for a large company but never did she give up.
Thomas Edison never spoke until his was four years old. It is said that as a child he had a most intimidating stare and often spoke only one word … “Why?” His teacher evicted him from his one-room schoolhouse when he was twelve and he spent his later school years being homeschooled by his mother. We know very little of Beulah Louise Henry’s early life but as an adult she defied convention and lived mostly in hotels.
Both of these two examples give credence to our discussion yesterday regarding perception. Edison was considered unteachable and his active mind if present today in a child would have most likely been labeled ADHD and medicated. Henry was self-taught when it came to engineering and mechanical apparatus. The world would be a much different place if not for the inventions of these two people, people who varied from the expected.
When we try to label a person or pigeon-hole their potential because we perceive them to be different, we limit the world’s potential and our own. Before her death in 1973, Beulah Henry became a consultant for many companies, helping to develop products for both industry and households. Unlike many female inventors, she lived on the income from her inventions and was often given credit for them. Beulah Henry never married, remaining self-sufficient and active not only with her inventions but with interests in fine arts and charities, especially those working with animals.
“If we did all the things were we capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Edison’s words ring very true in regards to this series’ emphasis on uselessness of gender bias. Beulah Louis Henry is just one example of how perceptions should not inhibit another person’s potential and efforts to succeed.