Black History

Bessie Blount Griffin | Lesser-Known Individual In Black History

bessie blount griffin

For the entire month of February, I’m covering lesser-known individuals in Black History since it’s Black History Month. This article explores Bessie Blount Griffin and her work.

Bessie Blount Griffin: Her Vitals

Per her Wikipedia page Bessie Blount Griffin was:

  • Born: November 24, 1914 in Hickory, VA
  • Died: December 30, 2009

What Did Bessie Blount Griffin Do?

Bessie Blount Griffin was a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist.

What Was Her Mark On Black History?

Because of Bessie Blount Griffin’s ambidextrous skill-set and working as a physical therapist during World War II, she saw a need for a feeding device for amputees. Even though returning soldiers missing limbs regained some of their mobility, many couldn’t feed themselves without assistance.

Bessie created a device that could dispense bites of food without the person needing to use their hands. Her invention contained a rubber tube for liquids to travel into a person’s mouth. When a person wanted more food, he/she bit down on the tube.

bessie blount griffin
Bessie Blount Griffin’s invention. From America Comes Alive!

Although her invention helped soldiers, the Veterans’ Administration wouldn’t buy it. Instead, Bessie sold the device to the French government.

However, that wasn’t Bessie’s only invention; she created a “portable receptacle support” to allow ill people to hold something close to their face. After hanging the device around a person’s neck, one could place a bowl or cup in the receptacle. In turn, Bessie received a patent in 1951 for this device.

Her final invention was the emesis basin. Again, the United States wasn’t interested in Bessie’s invention and she sold it to a company in Belgium. As of today, hospitals in Belgium still use her design.

As if being a successful inventor wasn’t enough, Bessie started a career in forensic science. Due to her knowledge and experience teaching patients how to write with other limbs, Bessie discovered a connection between health and handwriting style.

After publishing a technical paper about her discovery, Bessie assisted police departments in Virginia, New Jersey, and even London. She would later start her own business to examine documents, running it up to age 83.

Her Most Famous Quote

A Black woman can invent something for the benefit of human kind.

Bessie Blount Griffin

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