On May 17, 1912, Mary Beatrice Davidson was born in Monroe, North Carolina, 30 minutes South of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her father was an inventor named Sidney Nathaniel Davidson, he patented the clothing press for a suitcase, a window washer for trains, and a stretcher with wheels for ambulances to better transport injured people. I do not have any information about Mary Kenner’s mother. Her paternal grandfather invented the pants presser, her maternal grandfather is said to be the original inventor of the light signal for trains. The genius to invent items to improve our everyday lives must run in the Davidson bloodline, because Mary Kenner’s sister, Mildred Davidson Austin Smith, invented board games, trademarked her games, and sold her games for a profit.
At the age of six, Kenner came up with the idea of the self-oiling door hinge, but the invention was never created. She was very young but wise and thoughtful enough to observe her surroundings and think of how she could improve people’s everyday lives. She would create more ideas for inventions as a child, such as the sponge tip to soak up the water running off of an umbrella, and a portable ashtray that attached to a cigarette carton. In 1924, Kenner’s family moved to Washington D.C. She would spend much of her time in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office learning about the system, how to patent inventions, and looking to see if someone else patented her inventions. Kenner graduated from Dunbar Highschool in 1931, her next step was enrolling at Howard University. She studied at Howard for three or four semesters before dropping out due to financial issues.
To support herself and her family, Kenner began working various jobs such as babysitting and working as an elevator operator. She worked where ever she could to earn money. In 1941, Kenner began working for the Census Bureau and General Accounting Office. This job allowed her to make more money, better support her family, and in her spare time create new inventions. Even though the bulk of her time was spent working to help her family, she never lost her passion to invent. In 1950, Kenner saved up enough money to quit her job and open up a florist shop. She had also become a professional florist. Her florist shop was successful and lasted for 20 years. In 1945, Kenner married a man who was a soldier in the U.S. Army, the couple divorced in 1950. Also In 1951, she married the famous boxer and founder of the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington, James “Jabbo” Kenner. The couple produced two sons Antonio and Woodrow.
In 1957, Kenner filed and acquired her first patent for her invention the sanitary belt. She originally created the belt as a teen but didn't have the money to file for the patent. The sanitary belt was designed to hold a woman’s sanitary pad in place preventing her menstrual fluids from escaping the pad. This is an invention she would make improvements to overtime. Kenner’s invention was becoming a very useful and popular tool for women at the time. Her invention was so popular that The Sonn-Nap-Pack Company was contacting her to make a business deal. The deal was revoked by The Soon-Nap-Pack Company because they discovered Kenner was a black woman. The use of the sanitary belt declined as the design for menstrual pads was improved upon and tampon was being used. But Kenner was not deterred.
In 1976, Kenner patented a walker attachment that included a tray to sit items on and pockets for carrying extra items. In 1982, Kenner and her sister collaborated to patent a toilet paper holder, and in 1987, Kenner patented a mounted back washer and massager; which was her last patent. On January 13, 2006, Mary Beatrice Kenner died at the age of 93. She was a very intelligent and driven woman. She was a visionary who used her imagination and ingenuity to bring her ideas to fruition. This story is a reminder of why it is important to cultivate the interest, skills, discipline, and imagination of your children because they could literally change the world. Mrs. Mary Beatrice Kenner, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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