Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

Emily Arnold McCully
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 10
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006   ISBN: 978-0374348106

From a very early age Mattie was unlike other girls. Instead of playing with dolls she liked to invent gadgets and make them with the tools that she had inherited from her father. When she was just a child she made toys and sleds for her brothers and a foot warmer for her mother. Later, when her family went to live and work in the Massachusetts mill town of Manchester, Mattie invented a special metal guard which could be fitted to the looms to prevent the shuttles from flying off and hurting people.

Being poor, not having much education, and, worst of all, being female meant that it was very hard for Mattie to get anyone to take her inventing seriously. People thought that women were too feeble minded for such work and that they should limit their activities to domestic matters. Mattie refused to accept this. As a young woman she invented a machine that could assemble and fold paper bags. Unfortunately the plans for Mattieā€™s invention were stolen and the thief filed a patent on the invention. Mattie was not one to give up on all the hard work that she had put into her invention. Instead she went to court to fight for her machine and for her right to patent it.

This wonderfully inspiring story will help young readers understand that women can be very good inventors if they are given the chance to do so. All too often, in the past, this was not the case and a woman had to work twice as hard in the inventing field to get anyone to accept her work. Mattie Knight defied the odds and made a real name for herself, paving the way for other women who wanted to change the world with their ideas.