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Fri, 05.17.1912

Mary Kenner, Inventor born

Mary Kenner

*Mary Kenner was born on this date in 1912.  She was a Black businesswoman and inventor.  

Mary Beatrice Davidson was born in Monroe North Carolina and came from a family of inventors. Her father, whom she credited for her initial interest in discovery, was Sidney Nathaniel Davidson who patented a clothing press which would fit in suitcases and a window washer for trains and invented a stretcher with wheels for ambulances.  Her grandfather invented a light signal for trains, though this invention was stolen from him.  Her sister, Mildred Davidson Austin Smith, invented and commercially sold board games.  

Kenner graduated from high school in 1931. She attended Howard University, although she couldn't finish due to financial difficulties.  Kenner worked as a professional floral arranger and had four flower shops scattered around the Washington, DC, area.  She worked in her stores for 23 years after dropping out of college due to financial difficulties.  

She invented an adjustable sanitary belt with a built-in moisture-proof napkin pocket. In 1956, she was finally able to save up enough money to get her first patent on it.  However, the company that first showed interest in her invention, the Sonn-Nap-Pack Company, rejected it after they discovered that she was Black.  Her patent for the sanitary belt was prevented for thirty years. 

Kenner never made any money off of the sanitary belt because her patent expired and became public domain, allowing it to be manufactured freely on October 19, 1982, patent #4354643.  Between 1956 and 1987, she received five total patents for her household and personal item creations.  She also held a patent on a back washer that could be mounted on the shower or bathtub wall.  This invention was patented in 1987, patent number 4696068.  She also patented the carrier attachment for a walker in 1959 after Mildred developed multiple sclerosis.   

Kenner was married to renowned heavyweight boxer James "Jabbo" Kenner. Together, they lived in McLean, Virginia, near the Kennedy complex. They were foster parents to five boys.  Mary Kenner died on January 13, 2006.  

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