International Women’s Day 2021- Meet Mary Kenner, The Woman Who Invented Sanitary Pads

On this International Women’s Day 2021, let us remember the unrecognized contribution of a woman that brought crucial and critical change in women’s lives – Mary Kenner.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912-2006) is noted for her invention of the Sanitary Belt in the 1920s. As a child, her mind always drove towards inventions that could help people. In an age where women used rags and toilet paper as menstrual products, Mary invented the sanitary belt, but received its patent in 1957 – 30 years after her invention.

What was Mary Kenner’s Sanitary Belt?

Kenner’s diagram for her patent of sanitary belt showed a belt that sits around the waist and two straps that clip at either end of a large pad. “The revelation of this was that the pad would stay in place.” Later she updated her invention to include a “moisture proof napkin pocket” making it more spill proof.

sanitary belt diagram

Her invention gained some interest until the Sonn-Nap-Pack Company found out she was black, “One day I was contacted a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea. Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested.”

sanitary belt
An old-fashioned American ‘sanitary belt’ of the kind was pioneered Mary Kenner

Other Inventions Mary Kenner

Until the stick-on pad was invented in the seventies, women enjoyed the revelation of the sanitary belt. However, Kenner continued to invent things inspired her needs around the home.

  • Special attachment for a walker or wheelchair that included a hard surfaced tray and soft pocket for carrying items.
  • An attachment for the toilet-paper holder which would give people easy access to the loose end of a roll
  • A back washer or massager that could easily be mounted on a shower wall or a bathtub
  • Disposable ashtray holder that attaches to the cigarette package
  • Convertible top for the hidden bench seats of that time
Kenner Inventions