Sylvia Sánchez Alcantara

Her cleverness was as prosaic as the windscreen wipers, but it made life easier for thousands of drivers of trains, trams, and cars. Born businesswoman, Mary Anderson (1866 – 1953) was a practical woman who used her imagination to design a windscreen wiper model that was so effective that it soon became part of every motor vehicle.

Mary Anderson was born in 1866 in Greene County, Alabama. After her father’s death in 1889, Mary moved to live with her mother and sister to the burgeoning city of Birmingham, in the same state of Alabama. Even then, Mary was a businesswoman ready to get on board to rebuild the area, destroyed during the recent civil war. There she built apartment buildings and shortly after moved to live in California where she managed a cattle farm and vineyards.

A restless woman, who, on a visit to New York City in the winter of 1902, took the tram and noticed that all along the route the driver had to stop and go continuously to clean the dirt, water and ice that were impregnated on the windscreen, also leaving the windows half-open due to the difficulties in keeping the windshield clean from falling sleet. That was wasting everyone’s time, the driver himself and the travelers. One day after the first ride, she looked for a diagram of the elementary sweeping device. When she returned to Alabama she hired a designer to design a hand-operated device to keep a windshield clean and he got a local company to produce a working model.

After several improving models, Mary decided to patent her invention in 1903. Soon, brands like Ford began to incorporate them into their cars, becoming an indispensable element in time.

She is an example of the way in which women have transformed the world through the use of creativity, science, and technology.

This entry was originally posted at ‘Blog Retos Femeninos’


Sylvia is a multi-award-winning communicator, publicist, lecturer and spokesperson for women’s rights in different national and international forums. As an entrepreneur, she is the founder of the strategy of comprehensive communication for Women’s Challenges, focused on the personal and professional growth of thousands of women, and the initiative Enough of violence against women, among others. From 2007 to date, it presents the “International Women’s Day” event at the CDMX, Monterrey, and Guadalajara and from 2018, every year, in a different city, to cover the Mexican Republic. She is an ambassador for Vital Voices for her work promoting women’s rights.

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @retosfemeninos