This is a story about a lady named Margaret and her relationship with a fellow who did her wrong. You shouldn’t do people wrong – especially when they are smart enough to make you look foolish. This is even more the case when it’s a woman with a “mad on” at you for doing her wrong.
This lady’s name was Margaret and she was born on Valentine’s Day back in 1838. I bet you haven’t heard of her, but you really ought to know about Margaret Knight and her experience with men or at least one man in particular.
Margaret’s daddy died when she was very young leaving her with no choice other than to join her brothers working in the factory after very little schooling. Born in Maine, Margaret went to school until she was 12.
Then she went to work in a cotton mill…
You would have to imagine that working in a cotton mill wouldn’t be fun, especially for a 12 year-old girl.
Margaret kept working and never got married. Maybe you could say, “She was married to her work.”
Not that she needed to get married; I guess some folks are just as happy not getting married.
But she was born on Valentine’s Day…
Surely, she had some love interests or experiences with men.
You see, Margaret didn’t have much time for men. She was busy inventing things. She started when she was 12 years-old. At 12, while working in the cotton mill, she invented a safety device for the mill after witnessing a spindle fly off its moorings and injuring a worker.
These accidents in the cotton mills were common, and Margaret solved the problem by creating a stop-motion device. Margaret being young and her family uneducated was unable to patent the idea and make money from its use and sale.
Believe it or not, it’s still in use today.
In fact, Margaret came up with close to 90 different inventions. She became known as the “woman Edison,” in reference to Thomas Edison.
What does this have to do with Valentine’s Day and her relationship with men?
It goes like this.
Margaret is responsible for those… (at least for making them "stand up")
While working with a paper bag manufacturer in Massachusetts, she invented paper bags with flat bottoms and a way to make them. We take things like this for granted, but at the time it was a pretty big deal. Honestly, it still is.
This fellow by the name of Charles Annan tried to steal Margaret Knight’s idea about the flat bottom paper bags and even hired a spy to steal her secrets.
Charles was successful at first and even received credit for the patent.
Margaret was tough.
You’d expect her to be tough working in factories all those years and helping her widowed mother hold a family together.
Margaret took this “invention stealing fellow” to court to get credit for the patent that was really hers.
The fellow who stole her invention was ready – or at least he thought he was ready. He had prepared to face Margaret in court. When asked for proof that the invention was his and not Margaret’s, Charles Annan’s explanation was something to the effect of, “She’s a woman; a woman could never come up with such an innovative idea or machine.”
For about the umpteenth time in history – a woman made a man look like a fool.
Margaret Knight explained everything about the design including things that the other fellow had no idea about.
Folks understood that Margaret was the inventor and she was given credit for the patent in 1871.
The next time you are at the grocery store or your children are cutting hearts out of red construction paper to glue on a white paper bag to put Valentine’s Day cards in – think of Margaret and that fool man who thought he could steal her idea.
The next time someone says, “Girls can’t do that” or “Girls aren’t good at that,” think of Margaret.
She was born on Valentine’s Day, 1838.
Margaret Knight’s inventions included things like rotary engines, shoe-cutting machines, numbering machines, dress shields and flat-bottomed paper bags.
You just have to love smart women like Margaret – maybe that explains why she never got married.
Also published under the title, "Loving Margaret" in Street Talk America and newspapers in the Deep South.
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and Valentine's Day because it was Daddy's birthday.
Copyright, BN Heard