Inventor, Businesswoman by Design, Beulah Henry

On September 3, 1912, Beulah Henry, later nicknamed “Lady Edison,” received her first patent while living in Charlotte.

The invention, a vacuum ice cream freezer, was followed the next year by improvements to the handbag and parasol.

Although she attended Queens and Elizabeth Colleges in Charlotte, Beulah Louise Henry never had formal training in mechanics or technology.  However, the prolific designer received 49 patents and is credited with over 100 inventions.

Henry was born in Raleigh in 1887. As an adult, she lived in New York City, where she established Henry Umbrella and Parasol Company and later the self-named B. L. Henry Company.

Among her many successful inventions were the double chain stitch sewing machine, a duplicating attachment for typewriters, and a duplex sound producer. The designs would spring into her mind fully formed, and then she would describe what she saw to draftsmen and mechanics.  She said once that:

I invent because I cannot help myself.

Henry is one of the only a handful of American women in the early 1900s who was able to make a living as an inventor.

Read more about North Carolina inventions on NCpedia.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Topics: