Holiday Party Ice-Breaker: The Dishwasher Was Invented By A Woman!

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When the real-life Don Draper admen in the 1960’s were looking to name a pitchman for their product Comet Cleanser, they invented a woman who spent a lot of time around sinks: their creation’s name was “Josephine the Plumber.” And she was probably named for Josephine Cochrane, who in real life created a labor-saving device that so many households would miss if they didn’t have one: a dishwasher.

As the granddaughter of the inventor of the steamboat, Josephine grew up in a family who appreciated inventiveness and practicality. She married a banker, and being a wealthy woman, entertained often. But she became angry when, after breaking out the good china for a dinner party, some of the servants, well, broke some pieces! Josephine wanted to buy the machine that could wash her dishes faster and more carefully than her servants. Since she couldn’t find one, she exclaimed in frustration “If no one has yet invented the machine to do the dishes, I’ll do it myself!”

She developed a device with a water pump system that splashed the dishes with water and soap. Furthermore, she measured every piece of her dining set and created a container for each one. As a result, all the cages were put in a copper boiler and rotated inside, thanks to a manual engine. After the washing, the containers were removed to let the dishes air dry.

The rudimentary dishwasher was unveiled at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and the world was impressed! Josephine won the highest accolade for her invention, and she began the manufacturing process.

The dishwasher was initially welcomed by hotels and restaurants, and eventually, housewives would put one on their wish-list (if their husbands could afford it!)

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Josephine Cochrane died in 1913 at age 74. Some said it was due to a stroke, others said it was exhaustion. (Ironic, that the woman who dedicated herself to inventing and improving a labor-saving device should die of exhaustion.) She is remembered as the engineering legend who created the first dishwasher machine in her back garden shed. The company she started eventually became part of the Whirlpool Corporation. And by the 1970’s, automatic dishwashers were a permanent appliance in the modern household.

This holiday season, raise a glass to Josephine, drink whatever is in it, then place it carefully on the top shelf. Josephine may be watching.

And if your dishwasher gives up the ghost with all that extra work this time of year, call Roger’s Plumbing. We’re just a few clicks away, here to serve, 24/7! Or call 512-842-4544!