Inventors are inspirational. Ellen Eglin was an inventor, housekeeper, and government clerk. She was African-American and lived before, during, and after the time of the Civil War. This fact made being a female inventor more complicated for Ellen. Women had received patents in men’s names, however Ellen received her patent and then sold it inexpensively to a white man who wanted to manufacture it. Her invention was the time saving device, the clothes-wringer.
Ellen F. Eglin was born in 1849 in Washington D.C. Washing clothes was often done in tubs, creeks, or rivers. Ellen’s invention had two rollers in a frame that was connected to a hand-crank. The clothes could be feed through the rollers to remove soils, soap, and water. In the late 1800s, she invented her clothes-wringer, but the sold her patent. She was quoted in the April 1890 issue of Woman Inventor explaining why she sold her invention patent. Being a black woman, she felt the white man she sold her invention to had a better chance of selling it. The buyer did manufacture the invention and make money from it.
Ellen’s life contains a lot of historical unknowns, however she is recognized and remembered as an inventor. She later worked as a clerk in the census office and is remembered to have worked on another invention. The publisher of Woman Inventor tried to help her patent her second invention and she attended an inventors reception given by then President William Henry Harrison. Beyond those facts, not much else is known. At this time, she was rare as an African American female inventor. It seems her clothes-wringer invention, and her life even after having sold it, were successful.
Be inspired! Have a bright day!