December 10, 2023

September 23, 1884: 

On this day Judy W. Reed made history. There is little known about the Washington, D.C native, but she is considered to be the first Black woman to receive a United States patent.

In January of 1884, Judy W. Reed applied for a patent on her “Dough Kneader and Roller” the application was for an improved design on existing dough kneaders. Reed’s device allowed the dough to mix more evenly, as it progressed between two rollers carved with corrugated slats that would act as kneaders.  The dough then passed into a covered receptacle to keep the dough clean and protected.

There is no record of her life beyond this document. Since women sometimes used their first and/or middle initials when signing documents, often to disguise their gender, and patent applications didn’t require the applicant to indicate his or her race, it is unknown if there are earlier African American women inventors before Reed, but there is a possibility. It should also be taken into consideration that during the time period, it was illegal for any slaves to be literate, and those found reading, writing or teaching others could be killed.

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