Women in History: Josephine Cochran's Dishwashing Legacy

Exploring Josephine Cochran's Journey from a Dinner Party Mishap to Dishwashing Innovation

Women in History: Josephine Cochran's Dishwashing Legacy

Tuesday April 04, 2023,

2 min Read

Josephine Garis Cochran (1839-1913), an American inventor, recognised the challenges faced by housewives when washing dishes by hand, particularly the risk of damaging precious tableware. Cochran's desire to create an alternative to handwashing was spurred when she chipped heirloom dishes after a dinner party. She aimed to alleviate the burden of dishwashing for housewives and ultimately revolutionised the dishwashing industry by developing the first successful hand-powered dishwasher.

With the help of mechanic George Butters, Cochran designed and constructed the innovative machine, which eventually led Butters to become one of her first employees. Once her patent was granted on December 28, 1886, she founded the Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing Company to produce her dishwashers.

The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 showcased her groundbreaking invention, with nine Garis-Cochran washers being installed in the event's restaurants and pavilions. The dishwasher piqued the interest of restaurant and hotel owners, who had easy access to hot water. Cochrane's dishwasher won the prize for "best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work" at the exposition.

In 1897, the Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company transitioned into Cochran's Crescent Washing Machine Company, with a focus on hotels and commercial customers. Following Cochran's death in 1913, the company was acquired by Hobart Manufacturing Company and eventually became part of KitchenAid, which is now part of the Whirlpool Corporation..

In 2006, Cochran was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her dishwasher invention. Though her primary clientele were hotels and restaurants, dishwashers gained popularity for household use in the 1950s.

Cochran's pioneering invention not only transformed the dishwashing industry but also served as a testament to her dedication to improving the lives of housewives. Her legacy continues to inspire new innovations in the field and the advancement of women in the world of inventions.