Bette Nesmith Graham

I remember when I used to use Liquid Paper like paint, smearing it over the mistakes I made making my pages look messy.  I discovered today that it was a woman who invented this wonderful liquid eraser.   

Bette Nesmith Graham never imagined that she would be an inventor.  She was a divorced mother, trying to support her young son.  She learned typing and shorthand and got a job as an Executive Secretary.  She was an efficient worker who took great pride in her work and she searched for a better way to correct typing errors. It occurred to her that if artists painted over their mistakes on canvas why couldn’t typists paint over their mistakes too?

She set about preparing what was originally called “mistake out”.  She put some tempera waterbased paint, colored to match the stationery she used, in a bottle and took her watercolor brush to the office. She used this to correct her typing mistakes… her boss never noticed. Soon another secretary saw the new invention and asked for some of the correcting fluid. Graham found a green bottle at home, wrote “Mistake Out” on a label, and gave it to her friend. Soon all the secretaries in the building were asking for some, too.

Things rapidly progressed from there.  In 1956, Bette Nesmith Graham started the Mistake Out Company (later renamed Liquid Paper) from her North Dallas home. She turned her kitchen into a laboratory, mixing up an improved product with her electric mixer. Graham’s son, Michael Nesmith (later of The Monkees fame), and his friends filled bottles for her customers. Nevertheless, she made little money despite working nights and weekends to fill orders. One day an opportunity came in disguise. Graham made a mistake at work that she couldn’t correct, and her boss fired her. She now had time to devote to selling Liquid Paper, and business boomed.

Bette Nesmith Graham believed money to be a tool, not a solution to a problem. She set up two foundations to help women find new ways to earn a living. Graham died in 1980, six months after selling her corporation for $47.5 million (http://inventors.about.com/od/lstartinventions/a/liquid_paper.htm). 

Liquid paper became a widely used office product in the 20th century and a lifesaver for many office workers, thanks to a secretary who out of frustration with having to retype pages because of mistakes, decided that there had to be a better way. 

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The Benefits of Education

I am so thankful that I was born and raised in a country where education was easily accessible.  My gender was not a factor in the quality of education I received as it is, unfortunately in some countries.  I learned History, Geography, Social Studies, French and I loved English.  My interest in writing began when I was in school. 

I read a post today about the benefits of education.  On a recent visit to the UAE, Penny Low, Singapore’s People Action Party member, explained how women can become productive members of the society through “education, empowerment and enhancement” that will benefit the community at large.

She said it is the realisation that what one makes of circumstances and situation that makes life fulfilling, especially changes for the betterment of all, specifically the marginalised.

Low then explained what social innovation is and how women can contribute to the social cause to strengthen the community and the civil society. 

Low said that women can only contribute to the social cause when they are open to their surrounding and observe what is going around them, adding that there is a rise of a global concern for “green and ecologically-friendly” lifestyle. 

Low used Florence Nightingale, a celebrated English nurse, to demonstrate how her nursing care during the 1850s Crimean War evolved into the nursing profession today.  I can think of another example–Eva Smith. 

Eva Smith was a community outreach worker and counsellor who knew and understood people in despair, particularly youth. She was a woman of action, determination and persistence.

In 1987, she helped to found the North York Emergency Home for Youth. Her work and advocacy resulted in the construction of our first shelter, Eva’s Place, which was named in her honour. Eva Smith’s mission was to use her skills and her knowledge of how the social services system works to help people find solutions to their problems (http://evasinitiatives.com/who.php). 

“Each one of us has potentials inside,” Low said, pointing out that with social innovation comes the responsibility to propagate the three “D’s” namely education, empowerment and enhancement.  She urged women to use their potential.  “People work for a living and live for a cause. Woman or man, find your cause, and live it to the fullest.” (http://gulftoday.ae/portal/1cb93e89-b52a-444a-80d0-0b3cdb88fbe3.aspx).

There is the old adage that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”.  I urge the women to educate themselves, find interests, passions, causes, keeping in mind that they are building themselves up to be pillars of strength and inspiration for their communities.  Take Eva’s initiative and use your skills and knowledge to make a difference.