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The Big Book

How this woman went from nurse to inventor

Bridget Bodnar Dec 9, 2016
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An illustration of Bessie Blount Griffin, American nurse and inventor. 
Sophia Foster-Domino

In her book, “Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History,” Sam Maggs detailed the lives of women who were pioneers in their field. As part of an occasional series, we’re highlighting some of the figures featured in her book and their work. Today, a look at Bessie Blount Griffin, an American nurse and inventor. 

Bessie Blount Griffin came from exceptionally difficult circumstances. She was born in 1914 with next to nothing. She attended elementary school in a one-room school house that was made to educate the children of former slaves.

She dedicated her life to public service and helping others and became a volunteer nurse at a New Jersey hospital. While she was there, she noticed that lots of veterans from WWII had lost the ability to use their limbs. She thought it was unfortunate that they didn’t have the same kind of independence that they had before the war. She decided to create an invention that would allow paralyzed veterans to feed themselves using a tube that they could bite on with their teeth.

Bessie’s invention was hailed by the press and she was called “The Wonder Woman” for her achievements in rehabilitation. Even though she had worked for so long and invested thousands of dollars of her own money into her invention, the VA wasn’t interested in paying the $100,000 that she was asking for the invention. So instead, she donated it to the French government who used it in military hospitals nationwide.

Bessie was less interested in personal fame and determined to prove “that as a black female, we can do more than nurse their babies and clean their toilets.”

 

 

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