The inventions that changed the lives of women forever.

Philips Avent
Thanks to our brand partner, Philips Avent

There are definitely some advantages to being an Australian woman in 2016, as opposed to a century or two ago.

Being literate, for example. Having our own money, in our own bank accounts. My dad not having to gift anyone a cow when they marry me. Not having to wear a corset or a girdle, which is lucky given I am not quite sure what a girdle is. The list goes on.

What we often forget is that the (relative) freedom women now experience is the result of genius innovation.

In the words of Michael Crichton: “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”

Here are the three most important inventions that have changed the lives of women forever. And guess what? We blankly refuse to include the washing machine.

1. The contraceptive pill.

The Pill, no bigger than a pea, changed the course of history in a way that is simply impossible to measure.

Introduced into Australia in 1961, the contraceptive pill afforded women a life that their grandmothers could never have dreamed of.

Being in control of their own reproduction, meant that women could complete their education. This led to a significant increase in women’s participation in the workforce, and became the basis for long-term social change.

A woman, quite simply, was no longer just a womb with arms and legs.

So small, yet so influential. Image: iStock.

2. Disposable pads and tampons.

There was a time when having your period meant you were resigned to a bloody (literally) tent for a week.

I know what you're thinking; "Oh...would it really be that bad to have a week off every month and lounge around with my lady friends?" And I hear you. I really do. But YES IT REALLY WOULD BE.


Women had to manually wash the rags that were used to unsuccessfully absorb their menstrual blood. Oh, and tampons existed in the Ancient world. They just consisted of pieces of wood wrapped in moss, animal skin or

There was a time when having your period meant you were resigned to a tent for a week. Image: iStock.

Disposable pads weren't a thing until the late 19th Century, where they were held in place by a menstrual belt. They didn't sell very well because women were far too embarrassed to go out and purchase them - which is hilarious given what our bathroom looks like in the Mamamia office.

It wasn't until nurses in the First World War discovered that bandages worked quite well at absorbing blood, that pad making really took off. Luckily for ALL OF US, the belted sanitary napkin disappeared during the 1980s. Over the last 40 years, the sanitary pad industry has advanced by leaps and bounds. Women can now be active members of society during their period - incredible!

3. The breast pump.

This list would not be complete without the ground-breaking breast pump.

The advent of the breast pump provided women with increased control over their bodies and meant that for the first time, feeding a baby breast milk was no longer exclusively the domain of women.

Centuries ago, women (who have always been innovative and resourceful) found ways of expressing breast milk manually. Of course women have continued to breastfeed manually, but when the first pumps were patented in the mid 19th century, the nature of breastfeeding was revolutionised.


Initially designed for women with inverted nipples or with infants who were too small to nurse, the breast pump started out as a purely medical device.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and the breast pump became an essential part of the modern mum’s toolkit.

The transformation from original concept to ultra modern toolkit. Image: supplied.

Breast pumps like the Philips Avent Comfort Breast Pump Range allows mums to keep feeding their children breast milk for as long as they choose, meaning that they can return to work, sleep through the night, or participate in an active social life.

This particular Philips Avent range provides maximum comfort, particularly because mums don't have to lean forward while expressing their milk. Each model comes with everything a new mum needs to express, store and feed their baby, supporting them every step of the way.

Over the past 25 years, the breast pump has evolved in both ease and efficiency. To put it simply, the breast pump is a product of incredible innovation.

It's the kit our grandmothers would have dreamed of.

These inventions changed the lives of women, because they all meant that for the first time, women were not at the mercy of their bodies.

Rather, they had control of them.

It's important that we never take these incredible inventions for granted.

What invention has changed your life?

Here are some famous female inventors should you wish to be inspired: