Teaching Students About The Inventions of Margaret Knight


Margaret Knight, a prolific inventor of the 19th century, persevered through numerous obstacles and went on to create various innovative inventions that revolutionized several industries. As a female inventor in a male-dominated world, she was a trailblazer and an inspiration for many young women who aspire to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Introducing students to Margaret Knight’s work not only enriches historical knowledge but also empowers those who face adversity or discrimination while pursuing their dreams.

Early Life and Struggles

Born on February 14, 1838 in York, Maine, Margaret Eloise Knight displayed an affinity for inventing from a young age. She developed her first invention at the age of twelve – a safety device which she designed to prevent industrial looms from injuring workers if the shuttle malfunctioned. Despite her ingenious ideas, as a woman in the 19th century, Margaret faced countless challenges in receiving recognition for her work. In order to delve into her inventions and understand their historical significance, it is crucial to emphasize these struggles while teaching students about her journey.

Paper Bag Machine

One of Margaret’s most renowned inventions was the paper bag machine. In 1867, she began working on an automated machine that would produce flat-bottomed paper bags. This invention modernized the packaging industry and made it more efficient by replacing bulky sacks or unmanageable envelopes with sturdy paper bags. However, her invention was almost stolen by Charles F. Annan when he filed for a patent on her design without her knowledge. Undeterred by this obstacle, Margaret fought a legal battle against Annan and won her right to patent the device.

Subsequent Inventions

Throughout her life, Margaret Knight held more than 87 patents in various fields such as shoemaking machinery improvements, rotary engines, and automobile heaters. Many of her inventions were credited with substantially improving manufacturing processes across multiple sectors. To effectively teach students about Margaret’s work, it is imperative to discuss a wide array of her inventions and highlight the impact they had on industrial progress.

Legacy and Influence

Margaret Knight’s perseverance, despite the numerous barriers she faced as a female inventor during a time when gender equality was virtually nonexistent, continues to inspire and empower new generations of women. Teaching students about Margaret’s inventions provides an opportunity to discuss the broader historical context of women in STEM fields. Furthermore, learning about her unwavering passion and commitment to her work imparts valuable lessons of resilience and determination that are relevant to students today.


Incorporating Margaret Knight’s inventions into historical lessons not only fosters an appreciation for her vital contributions to industry but also sheds light on the role that female pioneers have played in shaping our world. By nurturing curiosity about remarkable figures like Margaret Knight, educators can cultivate an environment that encourages innovation and champions diversity in STEM fields for all students.

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