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Wed, 07.19.1826

Judy W. Reed, Inventor born

Reed Patent Cetrificate

*On this date in c.1826, the birth of Judy W. Reed is celebrated. She was a Black inventor during the 1880s.

Little is known about Judy Woodford Reed or Reid. She first appears in the 1870 Federal Census as a 44-year-old seamstress in Fredericksviile Parish near Charlottesville, Virginia in Albemarle County, along with her husband Allen, a gardener, and their five children. Ten years later, Allen and Judy Reed are still in Virginia, this time with a grandson.

Sometime between 1880 and 1885, Allen Reed died, and Judy W. Reed, calling herself "widow of Allen," moved to Washington, D. C., where she resided, with her children, at 1906 K Street, N. W. Her only known record is from a US patent. Reed, from Washington, D.C. and is considered the first Black woman to receive a US patent.  Reeds Patent No. 305,474 for a "Dough Kneader and Roller" was granted September 23, 1884. The patent was for an improved design of existing rollers with dough mixing more evenly while being kept covered and protected.

It is unknown if she was able to read, write, or even sign her name, as her patent is signed with an "X". Besides the patent registration, there are no other records of the life of Reed. There is a possibility that an earlier Black woman received patent rights; however, since there was no requirement to indicate race, and women often used only their initials to hide their gender, it is unknown. It is also of significance that during the period, it was illegal for any slaves to be literate, and those found reading, writing, or teaching others could be punished severely or killed. Judy Reed died in 1905. 

Reference:

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