#WomenInSTEMWednesday: Ruth Benerito

Ruth Benerito

Courtesy: Lemelson-MIT Program/Mary Jackson

This week’s #WomenInSTEMWednesday is credited with saving the cotton industry by creating wrinkle resistant fabric. Ruth Benerito discovered a method to attach organic chemicals to cotton fibers making them stain, flame, and wrinkle resistant.

Ruth started working as a teacher after graduating college because jobs were scarce during the Great Depression. While teaching, she earned her master’s degree from Tulane then eventually earned her PhD from the University of Chicago. She got married and went to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

While working for the USDA, Benerito’s research team found out that by inserting organic molecules between the bonds in the cellulose molecules of cotton, it became stronger and wrinkle resistant. The research continued and soon more chemicals were added making it stain and flame resistant.

Had it not been for Ruth Benerito and her team, it might have been quite some time before cotton was a fabric that was so easy to wear and have. Thanks to Benerito, the cotton industry also may not have suffered as much as it could have. #WomenInSTEM

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