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Before the invention of windshield wipers, traveling through harsh weather conditions was difficult to do. Drivers would have to face the cold and Mary Anderson witnessed it herself one afternoon when she saw a trolley with the front window opened to allow the driver to see. The invention of the wipers was important and benefited those who lived in areas with dreadful weather. Andersons invention not only kept you warm and dry, it also changed the automobile world forever. Mary Anderson’s invention of windshield wipers altered the way the world travels through enhanced vehicle safety and heightened visual capabilities.
Mary Anderson was born in 1866 in Greene County, Alabama at the start of the post Civil War Reconstruction Movement in the United States (Encyclopedia of Alabama). Her professional pursuits ranged from real estate development, to cattle farming, to managing a vineyard. At the age of 24, Anderson lost her father and moved to Birmingham, Alabama with her mother and sisters (Encyclopedia of Alabama). As soon as she settled in Birmingham, she ventured into real estate and built the Fairmont Apartments on Highland Avenue. She managed Fairmont throughout her life with the help of her brother in law and until her death in 1953. In 1893, she decided to move to California where she established a cattle ranch and a vineyard, and after five years of farming, she moved back to Birmingham to care for her elderly aunt that later passed away (History.com). After her passing, Anderson received 17 chests from her aunt that had been kept a secret. They contained gold bars and expensive jewelry, which put an end to Anderson’s financial worries for good (Famous Inventors).
Traveling through the city one cold afternoon, Anderson saw a trolley. The windshield was covered in ice and snow which made it hard for the driver to see. So he had opened the window, which exposed his face to the cold, harsh weather and exposed all of the people sitting behind him (About.com). Anderson began to draw the design to figure out which would be a sufficient prototype for what she had in mind. Anderson built many different designs and finally came up with one that worked. It was made of wood and plastic and could be removed if no longer needed. Anderson tested the product out herself and it was a success. But, no one had faith in her idea and not many people were interested. Even Canadian manufacturers turned her down (History.com). She tried to make her invention known, but no one wanted anything to do with it. The businesses and the average everyday person thought it would be a waste of their time and didn’t believe it would come to any use, so she moved on.
After many years of waiting, Anderson’s invention finally became known and popular because of the help of Charlotte Bridgwood and her invention of the Electric Storm Windshield Cleaner (History.com). The wipers were being used on all cars worldwide. She was never credited for her idea though because she let the patent go. It was her idea, but now it was anothers. When the automobile world skyrocketed in the early and mid 1920’s, Anderson moved out of the fold, and let corporations and businesses access her original conception (Encyclopedia of Alabama).
Although it took us a while to realise, Anderson changed the automobile world starting in 1903 with her invention of the wipers. The windshield wipers establish safety for those of us who have to drive through harsh conditions. Anderson altered the way the world travels through enhanced vehicle safety and gave us the ability to see through heightened visual capabilities.
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