Sybilla Masters was born in New Jersey and died in 1720. Sybilla was mentioned first in the New Jersey records of 1692. She got married to Thomas Masters. Thomas Masters was a Quaker merchant. Thomas Masters was from Philadelphia and that is where he and Sybilla lived. Thomas became a justice of Pennsylvaniaís Supreme Court. He was also a Mayor from 1707-1708. Sybilla worked hard to prepare food. One of the foods that people ate in colonial times was hominy, it was ground from corn. She watched some Native American woman, and she saw they used wooden posts instead of having to grinding it between stones, and Sybilla thought it was a really good idea, so she invented a mill to grind corn with hammers. She called it "Tuscarora Rice." Sybilla worked with straw and palmetto leaves. The straw and palmetto leaves came from the West Indies. Sybilla created a way to make leaves into hats and bonnets. Sybilla wanted to patent her inventions but at the time, having a patent was a very extraordinary idea.
A few colonies gave out patents but Pennsylvania did not, so she left Philadelphia and went to England instead. King George granted a patent for the process of "Cleaning and Curing the Indian Corn growing in the several Colonies in America" in 1715. He granted it to her husband! The patent application had to be filled out in her husbandís name, women were not allowed to hold patents. She also got a second patent, also in her husbandís name for weaving straw into hats.
Thomas Masters built a mill with his wifeís methods, and thatís what Sybilla wanted. Unfortunately the people in England didnít like the taste of Tuscarora, so it did not sell there.
She was remembered because she was the first American woman we know that invented something. She was also the first person from the American colonies to receive a patent from the King of England.
Sybilla was a woman ahead of her time and she was far from typical!
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By Emma, Mary and Karina, fourth grade, 2009
Last modified 03/31/2009