Marion Donovan Changed Parenting Forever


Marion Donovan

Marion Donovan Image Credit:

Marion Donovan is a name not many people would have heard of before but given how this woman changed the face of parenting forever, she should be a household name.

Born in Indiana USA in 1917, Marion Donovan was the daughter of a man who managed a local manufacturing plant with her uncle. The two men were rather innovative and came up with a number of inventions, their most popular being an industrial lathe. Their invention gene was passed onto Marion as she was to later invent a global phenomenon that almost every parent in the western world has used at some point.

Sick and tired of constantly changing her baby’s nappy (diaper), clothing and bedding due to leakage, Marion sat down at her sewing machine with an old shower curtain. With some trial and error, Marion created the first waterproof nappy cover that was unlike anything else on the market at the time. Marion’s invention did not pinch the skin nor did it cause nappy rash like other covers did. She also replaced the common safety pin with snap pins.

Unfortunately for Marion nobody was willing to back her invention, which she named the “Boater”, so she struck out on her own. The boater proved to be success and after receiving a patent on her invention, she sold off the rights. Marion then quickly moved onto her next creation – the disposable nappy.

Marion Donovan

Image Credit: Archives Center, National Museum of American History

The disposable nappy was a challenge for Marion Donovan as she needed to use an absorbent paper that was strong enough to hold liquid but also absorbent enough to keep the child dry. Once she perfected her product, for a second time Marion had no takers. Apparently she was told her disposable nappy was, wait for it, “impractical”. Huh? Even as a mostly cloth nappy user, I find that statement unbelievable!

Almost ten years after Marion perfected her disposable nappy, in 1961 a gentleman by the name of Victor Mills drew inspiration from Marion’s invention and came up with Pampers®

Marion Donovan was an innovative woman for her time. Over her lifetime, she had 20 patents for various inventions she came up with, all unrelated to the nappy. Marion also graduated from Yale University in 1958 with an Architecture degree.

Whether you use cloth or disposable or even a combination of both, is entirely a personal preference. Regardless of what your choice is, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Marion Donovan changed the face of parenting forever.

What other products do you think have changed the way we care for our children? Are there any stand outs that have helped you? Please share your thoughts in the comments – I would love to hear from you!


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  1. Very interesting, I never knew that!
    Alison – The Way He Plays invites you to read their latest post: Calming BasketMy Profile

    • Hi Alison, neither did I! This was one of those middle of the night “I can’t sleep” thoughts when my son had a bad dose of gastro. I wondered who invented disposable nappies (diapers) and right at that moment of terribleness with my son, I knew I loved them… deeply. Haha!


  1. […] you have never heard of her, check out this blog post to find out how she changed the face of parenting […]

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