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11/20/2020 7:44 pm  #1

Notable Women

Most women, like most men, just go along to get along, make a life as peaceful and comfortable as they can.
But every once in awhile you hear about an exception, someone who exceeds all expectations.
They may be doing for themselves or for others, it could be for financial gain or altruistic, but it is outstanding.
The story of Margaret E Knight sounded pretty impressive, a very smart and talented inventor to have accumulate 27 patents in her lifetime.
But the picture bothered me.


Googling her name brings up lots of stories about her various inventions and periods of her life and most of them have that same picture as above attached. A few others have even more preposterous pictures with them.


Seriously, all these pictures and more were tacked onto stories about her.
Reading a handful of short articles about her I’ve gathered she was born in 1838 and moved to Springfield in 1867. Some say she invented the flat bottom paper bag, she did not, they were already making them by hand and losing money. She invented the machine to automate making the bags. After making a wood prototype that was pretty flimsy but she did manage to make 1000 bags with it, she moved 70 miles to Framingham but spent most of her time at her lab/workspace in Boston. Working with two machinists to build an iron copy of her prototype a third machinist, Charles Annan, showed great interest and asked a lot of questions. Being denied a patent because Annan had filed first she sued him. There are two versions of his defense, one says he claimed a woman couldn’t have done it, the other said he claimed his machine was different than hers. But she had the drawings, notes, and witnesses to prove and win her case. She was finally awarded her patent in 1871.
Now when she moved to Springfield she was 29 years old. When she got the patent she was 33. That was the first fame/notoriety that would trigger a news media photograph. That picture could easily be a 30 year old woman but the hairstyle the clothes, the makeup, just general vibe of the picture strike me as not 1870, and it’s  nothing like the other post Civil war photographs I’ve seen. She died in 1914 at 76 years old.

There’s a lot of misinformation about her on the web. I can say that confidently because there is so many contradictory claims at least half have to be wrong. For instance she has been credited with 13 “Inspiring Quotes”. They’re all anti-religion, specifically Christians but that can be attributed to it’s the majority she had contact with. But I did a WTF at #7...
 “I want here to make three suggestions: first, that the doubts the ordinary man feels about religion are justified, and need not be stifled or concealed; second, that there is no ground for the view that Christianity is the only alternative to communism, or that there can be no sound character training that is not based on religion; and, third, I want to make some practical suggestions to the parents who are not believers, on what they should tell the children about God, and what sort of moral training they should give them.”
-- Margaret E. Knight

Now Ms Knight worked tirelessly in her Boston lab the commuted 20 odd miles to her home on Holis Street in Framingham. (I know where that is because Holis Street goes to Holliston where my first wife was from).
20-odd miles in 1900 was no walk in the park, it took time and was work, she got very sick in 1912, patented an automobile engine in 1913, and died in 1914. I doubt she had the time or energy to be concerned with communism.
After her father died she quit school at 12, then with her 2 older brothers and her mother worked in a cotton mill in New Hampshire to make ends meet. But the cotton dust made her sick so she moved to Springfield, lived with a woman called Saddie and worked at the bag company for less than a year before moving to Framingham/Boston to make the metal copy of the bag machine. Where did she get the money to live and build the machine, to buy a house in Framingham?  There’s not only conflicting stories, there’s big holes but I’m too lazy to read her biography. 

One fact remains after shedding most of the dubious material written about her, she was a remarkable woman of great personal achievement.                                                                                                                                                        


This is our winter of interregnum

11/21/2020 8:13 am  #2

Re: Notable Women

Somebody needs to do a serious history on her.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

11/21/2020 1:01 pm  #3

Re: Notable Women

Yeah that was fascinating


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