Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

And Woman Created ... LOTS of Things Ethlie Ann Vare, Author and E! Reporter, Brings Her Multi-Media Show on Women's Inventions to Jacksonville

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

And Woman Created ... LOTS of Things Ethlie Ann Vare, Author and E! Reporter, Brings Her Multi-Media Show on Women's Inventions to Jacksonville

Article excerpt

It all started with Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. Well,

actually, it was his mom.

Ethlie Ann Vare, a rock music critic for the Hollywood Reporter

and regular contributor to E! Entertainment's The Gossip Show,

was working on an article about The Monkees. The '60s group was

planning a reunion tour, and Nesmith was not joining them. It

seems he didn't need the money since he'd inherited millions

from his mother, who invented Liquid Paper.

"When I saw that," said Vare, co-editor of ROCK magazine. "I

said, `Well, of course a woman invented Liquid Paper. Who else

was sitting in the typing pool in the 1950s? I bet there are

many other things women invented.' "

Thus began a collaboration that started 10 years ago with Greg

Ptacek, her co-editor at ROCK. The two wrote Mothers of

Invention: From the Bra to the Bomb, Forgotten Women and Their

Unforgettable Ideas.

This weekend, Vare will bring a multi-media show on the subject

to Jacksonville for Women's History Month. Sponsored by the

University of North Florida Women's Center, the free performance

will be at 8 p.m. Saturday in UNF Theatre.

Mothers of Invention, in print and on the lecture circuit,

gives credit to women in history whose names are typically left

out in social studies books that recognize achievers. Sure, some

of their inventions may not seem all that earthshaking. But tell

that to the millions who wake up every morning to the smell of

their drip coffee maker or who drive more safely during

rainstorms by using their windshield wipers.

Here are some other items that originated in the mind of a

female inventor: soy flour, the zigzag sewing machine, the first

commercial dishwasher, the needle threader, the microwave oven,

frozen pizza, Stove Top Stuffing, pink champagne, buffered

aspirin, the first computer reservation system and the

voice-activated wheelchair.

Using slide illustrations with her discussion, Vare gives the

audience inside information on some fascinating females of past

and present. The subjects run the gamut from Caresse Crosby, who

invented the bra, to Lise Meitner, who first recognized nuclear


Meitner's story is particularly dramatic, according to Vare,

because she was doing her formulas while fleeing the Nazis as a

Jewish scientist during World War II. "She came up with the

prototype for the atomic bomb while hiding in a boat in the

North Sea," she said.

Vare, who combines humor with her anecdotes about female

inventors, is intent on making her subject fun and positive. A

curly-haired redhead who describes herself as "this weird, out

there Hollywood rock and roller," she plays games with her

audiences (some of whom end up winning money) as part of the

presentation as she opens their eyes to historical footnotes.

It was 1908, for example, when Melitta Benz devised an

alternative to making coffee other than merely boiling grounds

with water. One day, she took a piece of blotter paper and

fashioned the first filter by poking it with holes. Her family

still has the company she founded. "I'd be dead without that

woman," Vare joked.

Vare tells stories about women who did and did not receive the

credit they deserved. After Margaret Knight invented the machine

that makes brown paper bags, a male rival unsuccessfully argued

she couldn't have possibly built the contraption because of her

gender. …

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