Women's History Seminars

The "Woman Inventor" as a Political Tool of Female Suffragists

Patents, Invention, and Civil Rights in 19th-Century United States
Boston Seminar on the History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Kara W. Swanson, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law


After the Patent Act of 1790, patents played an important social and political role in the formation of American nationhood and citizenship. Part of a larger book project, this paper demonstrates how 19th-century American women mobilized patents granted to women as justification for civil rights claims. It identifies the creation of the “woman inventor” as a cultural trope and political weapon of resistance.


The Boston Seminar Series on the History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality—cosponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—offers scholars and students an opportunity to discuss new research on any aspect of the history of women and gender in the United States, without chronological limitation.

The seminar series includes four meetings that will take place during the 2016–2017 academic year, each revolving around the discussion of a precirculated paper. 

Registration for the series is required.

Registered participants may access the papers online at the Massachusetts Historical Society website.

For more information, please call 617-495-8647 or e-mail seminars@masshist.org.