Margaret E. Knight, Inventor (Boston Sunday Post, March 31, 1912, p. 4)

Women and Adversity:
Margaret E. Knight
  ‘Woman Edison’
Inventor of Machines

Margaret “Mattie” Eloise Knight is quoted as saying, “I’m only sorry I couldn’t have had as good a chance as a boy.”

Knight wasn’t like the average girl who played with dolls and wanted to be a wife and mother. Her world revolved around tools and machines. She was born in 1838 and at age 12, invented a safety device that prevented the shuttle from falling off a loom. She couldn’t patent her invention because she was too young to get a patent.

Flat-bottom bags are part of our shopping experience and most of us, I’m sure, have never questioned how they were invented. Look back to Knight, who wanted to find a way to make bags easier to fold. In 1867, while working at The Columbia Paper Bag Company in Springfield, Massachusetts, she saw the machine had problems, so she invented a machine that cut, glued and folded a bag so its bottom was flat.

There’s more to the story. She made a wooden model and asked machine shop worker Charles Annan to make an iron model of her design. He stole her design and had it patented. She filed a lawsuit against him and got the patent in 1871.  She and a partner then established the Eastern Paper Bag Company, acquired two more patents that made the production more efficient and then mass-produced paper bags. The machine is displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Among her other inventions:

1883 –  dress and skirt shield
1884 – clasp for robes
1885 – barbeque spit for cooking meats
1890 – shoe cutting machines
1894 – window frame and sash


  • Born February 14, 1838, in York, Maine
  • When her father died, the family moved to Manchester, New Hampshire
  • 1850 – Left school and began working
  • 1867 – Moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and worked at Columbia Paper Bag Company
  • 1880s-1890s – focused on inventing household items
  • 2006 – Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Knight never married. She died on October 12, 1914 at the age of 76.

More information:

My ebooks available at and
Honoring 23 Black Women, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists  



Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to, and to learn more.

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