Prior to 1903, streetcars had no windshield wipers and most private cars didn’t even have windshields. Drivers generally stayed off the roads in rainstorms and streetcar drivers leaned out the side window to see obstacles ahead. Mary Anderson’s solution to this problem was a simple one. A swinging arm with a rubber blade that could be operated manually with a lever by the driver.
Mary’s device received a patent but wasn’t met with great acclaim right away. Critics felt using the arm would distract the driver and cause crashes. By 1916, however, windshields and wipers became commonplace and most vehicles were delivered with Mary’s invention already installed. In 1917, another woman Charlotte Bridgwood, patented the fist automatic wiper system.