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Our Rich History: Ever hear of Jennie Moore? She was first woman from Covington to get a patent

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By John Schlipp
Special to NKyTribune

Today women professionals are represented in all fields, from small business entrepreneurs and big business CEOs to scientists and engineers. In the first century of Covington’s history, though, women were often socially restricted to domestic duties such as raising families, or volunteering at churches, schools, and for other philanthropic institutions.

However, women in the 19th century began to open doors for themselves, as abolitionists challenging slavery and as suffragettes promoting equal rights for women. The “new woman” theme, introduced by author Henry James in his novella Daisy Miller in 1878, surfaced as a model for some of these progressive women. The specific term was spotlighted by Sarah Grand in her article, “The New Aspect of the Woman Question” in the March 1894 issue of the North American Review.

Jennie Moore's dress-stay patent drawing, 1893

Jennie Moore’s dress-stay patent drawing, 1893

Although women inventors are well known today, as evidenced in popular books such as the Mom Inventors Handbook (by Tamara Monoso), they were not commonplace in the 19th century. Jennie B. Moore, a single woman of Covington, exemplified the “new woman” of the late 19th century. She was the first woman in Covington to be granted a US patent. It was for her invention of an improvement in fashion garment dress-stays (US patent 509,480) in 1893.

Jane “Jennie” Baldwin Moore was born on August 9, 1848 to parents Marmaduke “Duke” Moore and Jane Hedges Baldwin Moore. Census records listed Duke’s profession as a “master tobacconist” wholesaler. The family lived in a prominent three-story home at 201 Garrard Street in Covington, still standing and close to the Shinkle family home. A newspaper account years later reported Jennie as attending one of the Shinkle’s society parties. The Moore family was well-to-do, and its carriage frequently welcomed guests at Covington’s railroad station. Typical of extended 19th-century families, the Moores cared for orphaned and needy nephews and nieces, who called their uncle, “Pappy Duke.”

The 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedules for Covington reveal that Jennie’s father owned three slaves. Such ownership seems to suggest that her father was pro-Southern, leading to his arrest by federal military authorities during the Civil War in 1864.

In contrast to her father’s more traditional views, Jennie’s outlook was progressive. She studied Wood Carving at the University of Cincinnati (1877-78), later designing a “Corn-Cracker State” emblem for the Kentucky Daughters of the American Revolution in 1898. The emblem was granted a patent (US design patent D29119). Jennie worked professionally as a dressmaker and as an agent for the sale of magazine subscriptions. On behalf of women, she attempted to crack “glass ceilings.” By 1897, she was working as a reporter—typically a man’s job—for Covington’s principal daily newspaper, the Kentucky Post. The following year, she applied for clerk of the school board in 1898, also traditionally a male position, but did not secure the position.

The Marmaduke Moore family home at 201 Garrard Street, Covington (Photo by Paul Tencotte)

The Marmaduke Moore family home at 201 Garrard Street, Covington (Photo by Paul Tencotte)

Jennie was very close to her niece, Mary “Minnie” Baldwin Moore. The year before getting married in 1887 to John Oliver Taylor, Sr., Minnie was listed in the Covington city directory as living with her aunt Jennie. Minnie was career minded too, serving as one of the first teachers at Covington’s Seventh Street School for African-Americans (later named Lincoln Grant School), when it opened in 1888.

Miss Jennie B. Moore set an example of innovation and professionalism for future generations of women to follow. She died on November 13, 1925 and was buried in Covington’s Linden Grove Cemetery.

John Schlipp, is an Associate Professor and Intellectual Property Librarian at NKU’s Steely Library. He also directs the Intellectual Property Awareness Center (IPAC) at NKU, assisting everyone from inventors to musicians in becoming aware of their intellectual property. The IPAC is an official Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. See http://ipac.nku.edu for details about this free community service.

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