Many states had laws that kept enslaved people from owning property, and that included a U.S. patent because slaves weren't considered American citizens and the rights of the Constitution didn't apply to them. To make it even more difficult, the Patent Act of 1793 included an oath where applicants had to swear their invention was original and prove their U.S. citizenship. Slave or free, Blacks couldn't take the oath because they didn't have country or citizenship to swear to. It wasn't until the 14th Amendment and various Naturalization Acts were passed that Blacks could gain citizenship and freely apply for a U.S. patent.

Women trying to get a patent application faced widespread discrimination and were less likely to be approved than men. So, many women inventors, regardless of race, would disguise their gender by signing a patent app using their first or middle initial and last name. That said, there is really no telling how many African American female inventors came before that of Judy W. Reed. A former slave, Reed never got real credit for being the among the first Black women to get a patent because she signed hers with an X.

Other than knowledge of her invention, Reed's life story is a mystery. She invented the improved design of the dough kneader and roller.  Judy's product allowed the dough to be mixed evenly, kneaded through two slats, and finally into a covered container. Bakers would be lost without her ingenious design and the inventions of many of African American women. Below, get to know 10 Black women inventors who changed the world.

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