More than an Inventor for Mothers

Today we celebrate a woman who invented a practical and helpful device for moms and babies, the Boater. But Marion Donovan was more than an inventor for mothers.

Circa 1950s image of two babies in a wooden playpen wearing nothing but cloth diapers and no way to stay dry--Marion Donovan saw a need but she was more than an inventor for mothers
Babies in cloth diapers
FOTO:FORTEPAN / UVATERV, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Born with the Right Genes

Her father and uncle were inventors, so it’s no surprise that Marion Donovan also becomes an inventor. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1917, Marion’s first invention was a tooth powder to improve dental hygiene. She created it while in elementary school.

She attended Rosemont College in Pennsylvania and in 1939 received her B.A. In English.

A Frustrated Mother

Photo of diapers hanging on the laundry line outside--Marion Donovan saw a need but she was more than an inventor for mothers
C. K. Klose, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A post-World War II homemaker, Marion Donovan was frustrated. Her youngest was still in diapers. Cloth diapers required frequent changing and bathing of the baby and laundry sheets and other clothing. 

Rubber baby pants were available. Yes, rubber. They were supposed to keep the moisture of wastes contained inside the diaper and the pants. Seepage was common. And the rubber and elastic legs pinched the baby’s skin. And, well, the rubber didn’t allow the baby’s bottom to dry. Chafing and diaper rashes caused terrible discomfort for the baby. The problem was so severe, doctors urged parents not to use rubber pants.

Marion sewed something different for her baby. Legend has it she started with a piece of her bathroom shower curtain.

The Boater

She spent three years perfecting her design. To get the right sizes, she measured her baby, her neighbors’ babies, and babies at Bellevue Hospital. 

Marion used nylon instead of rubber and snaps instead of diaper pins. She created waterproof baby pants that didn’t cause rashes. She called it the boater. According to, she thought it looked like a boat.

Designed to hold the diaper inside the waterproof covering, it kept babies and sheets dry more often. A row of three snaps above the leg allowed parents to adjust the covering for the baby’s growth.

Manufacturing the Boater

No manufacturer at the time would consider her invention. 

I went to all the big names that you could think of and they said, ‘we don’t need it—no woman has asked us for that…

Marion Donovan

Marion filed for a patent and partnered with a lingerie manufacturer. 

Her product did not cause rashes. Soon doctors and baby care manuals recommended the Boater.

In 1949, the Boater went on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue. It was an immediate success.

Patent Granted, Next Project Please

Granted a patent in 1951, she sold her company and patents for $1,000,000.

Next, she designed a fully disposable diaper to insert in the Boater. Paper manufacturers didn’t see the market for it. 

In 1961, Victor Mills drew upon Donovan’s invention to create Pampers®.

image of pampers diapers which were derived from Marion Donovan's patented paper diapers

Marion didn’t limit herself to mother’s concerns in her inventions, the men of her time pigeon-holed her. They said she created women’s “essentials.”

She invented many useful things like a facial tissue box, a towel dispenser, closet organizer, and more. She filed and received 20 patents in her lifetime. Read more about Marion on the Smithsonian website where her family donated her papers.

At 41 she earned a degree in architecture from Yale. She designed her own house in Connecticut.

Marion Donovan died at 81 in 1998. Few people know of her. Yet many of us use her inventions or improved variations of her inventions.

More than an Inventor for Mothers

She saw a need for her own child and helped millions of children and families. Some people will debate the need for disposable diapers, but comfortable, waterproof diapers were necessary for babies and parents. 

For those of you who wonder, this is not a political statement. No matter which party or person is in the White House or the Congress—we were all babies. Most of us have benefited from this woman’s inventions.

Marion Donovan was more than an inventor for mothers and so much more. Did you enjoy learning about this strong woman? Please let me know in the comments below.

Creativity and You Don’t Have to be Perfect

Are you paralyzed by the idea of using your creativity? At some point, everyone is…the blank page, the first stroke of the brush, the first cut of the paper, the first taste…afraid. Maybe you’re afraid to start. Could be you’re afraid to finish. Take a deep breath and remember, creativity, and you don’t have to be perfect. It’s about more than creating a perfect product, to paraphrase a Miley Cyrus song, it’s about the ride.

Image of a large sculpture of a face and neck with lots of cracks-because creativity and you don't have to be perfect

Perfectionism Leads to Poor Self-Esteem

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Brene Brown

Fear drives a perfectionist by the fear of shame and judgment and blame. Yet, it’s a self-fulling destiny. Perfect is unattainable. So when you cannot reach perfection, you berate yourself before someone else can.

cartoon of a woman yelling. Creativity and you don't have to be perfect

Shaming yourself is easy.

  • See, I knew I couldn’t do it. 
  • I knew it; I don’t deserve this.
  • Look at how bad that looks. Why did I ever think I could do this? I can’t do anything.
  • Self-shaming is contagious. Once we start, we find fault in everything we do. 
  • So and so did it perfectly, I can never measure up. Might as well not try.

Shaming is so easy you can shame others, too. Laughing at or pointing out the other’s mistakes makes you feel better for a moment. Because you’re not the one experiencing the pain.

Protect Yourself from Perfect

A child draws and tells stories and makes with abandon.  We look at their imperfect creation and praise them for the beautiful thing they did. Why do we do that? Are we lying? No, we are praising them for trying. Encouraging them to keep trying.

You need praise, too. You are courageous for trying. Tell yourself, look at what you did! Good job! Look at you go!

Remind yourself that perfect only comes after a lot of work. Yes, on rare occasions, a singer or artist or chef comes along with nearly perfect abilities from the get-go. But you know what? They question themselves, too.

If friends or family devalue your work, remind yourself that you did a courageous thing. You tried. And that you’re courageous enough, you’ll try again.

You can break the perfectionist habit. Psychcentral offers ten ways to break perfectionism, celebrating your mistake is one of them. That’s right. Celebrate. Thank yourself for having the courage to learn from your mistakes. You are wiser now that you were. 

A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.


Tell Your Inner Critic Off

If you’ve got a strong inner critic, tell her off. Who the heck is your inner critic to tell you you can’t do anything? Tell her I’m going to make this first attempt as crudely as I can and you can’t stop me anymore. Yeah, it’s bad, but I learned how to do it better. Inner critic, all you know how to do is say how bad something is—that’s not perfect. You’re not protecting me, you’re hurting me. Go away.

Journal. Take a walk and yell at your inner critic. Record what you want to say to your inner critic. 

Take a picture of your progress. And when your inner critic is making fun of you, pull out your early work and show that critic how brave you are and how far you’ve come.

Being Yourself is Perfect

Image of a road disappearing in the distance with Quote from Julia Cameron "Progress, not perfection,  is what we should be asking of ourselves."

There is no one else exactly like you, not even if you have identical siblings. Your creative process will enrich you. That’s the best reason in the world to try and fail. If you try and succeed, even the tiniest bit, then you enrich yourself and someone else. Maybe lots of others.

Creativity is about more than what you produce. It’s about the process. The process allows you to explore your feelings, your thoughts, your imagination. It allows you to connect with your inner person. The process makes your inner creative sing or dance or soar. It fills you with a sense of wonder and joy and completeness.

It’s the Ride

Striving for excellence is not the same as perfectionism. When you are reaching for excellence, you take pleasure in working toward high standards. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Excellence is a way of leveling up, perpetually. It’s saying you want to master this level of skill. If you don’t master it, it’s okay. You’ll work some more. Because it’s the striving toward the goal. It’s the process of learning and improving that gives you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. It’s the ride.

When you’re having a bad day, when the world is in flames and going down, give yourself the gift of imperfect creativity. You Don’t Have to be an Artist. Creativity and you don’t have to be perfect. Connect and the process will take you on a journey. It’s not about the creation, it’s the ride. In the comments below, let me know how you give yourself permission to enjoy the ride. 

12 Ways to Increase Your Reading Pleasure

You are a reader. Whether you read stories or novels, on paper or on an electronic device, you get pleasure out of reading. But I’ll bet there’s at least one thing you can do to improve your experience. Consider these 12 ways to increase your reading pleasure and let me know if you try one.

This woman reading on her sofa could use some of these 12 ways to Increase your reading pleasure

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

Ursula K. Le Guin

1. Decide What to Read

What do you want to achieve? Learn something? Be entertained? Be frightened silly? Be encouraged by a hero?

Read what you like. Unless it’s a school assignment or a skill-learning attempt, don’t waste time reading what you don’t like. Also read books for your reading level or a bit higher. Don’t know what your reading level is? Go to the library (or an online store like Amazon, Kobo, or B&N for those of us self-quarantining), and look at the first pages of a book that interests you. Your reading level should be a bit uncomfortable (in order to stretch yourself) but not so difficult that you put the book down and down and never go back to it. 

Switch it up. Read for entertainment one time, read to learn the next…Or read a romance then a thriller then science fiction. (Or whichever genres you prefer.) The point is to read different genres. Try something you’ve never read before. It will enhance your experience of read and will stretch your brain & thinking.

2. Always have a Book on Deck

Stacks of books to be read mean you always have your next book to be read handy one of 12 ways to increase your reading pleasure

If you’re a list person, have a list that’s great, but also have the next one or two books on hand. Some people like to have a to-be-read pile—literally sitting on their shelf or floor. (Don’t ask whose bookshelf broke under the weight of her TBR’s.)

Find a source for new-to-you book recommendations. Try one of the many sites where you can find book lists: Pinterest, book clubs (virtual and in-person), book buddies, and social media groups (search Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

My First Line Fridays posts on this site offer the first lines of books for your consideration.

There are also sites dedicated to books like Liminal Fiction, Goodreads, and BookBub.

Keep a list—written in your journal, a Pinterest board, or a file on your tablet or computer.

3. Make Where You Read Pleasurable

Each person’s most pleasurable reading place will be unique. A book nook somewhere in your home or someplace else. The location should be a place where you love to read. Is that out in nature, in your bedroom, a Library, a coffee shop, a reading shed? You decide.

Of course you should choose the clothing that makes you comfortable.

Which position do you most prefer for reading? Is an overstuffed chair with lots of pillows, or at a table, or is curling up in a beanbag chair your thing?If you like to read in the bath, consider using a bathtub organizer.

image of a bathtub organizer with a book or electronic device rest one way to increase your reading pleasure if you read in the tub.

Set the ambiance just for you. Perhaps you like instrumental music or nature sounds (real or recorded) in the background while you read. Binaural Beats might give you the ability to sink into a book. Maybe you prefer silence.

What scents make your reading experience delightful? Fresh flowers, a scented candle, or essential oil may help transport you into that book’s world.

And don’t forget good lighting and the right temperature. Warm or cool? A fan set on low? Or would you like to bundle up in blankets?

4. Gather Reading Accessories

What will you need to make your reading experience extra pleasurable? Fill your reading nook or spot with the things that make reading enjoyable. Choose a special journal and a pen or pencil (or if electronic—the device you need).

If you like to mark passages, invest in colored markers or self-sticking notes or page markers.

It’s your choice whether to use blankets and pillows to create a reading fort.

If you don’t have a dedicated reading nook—get a reusable bag and keep your reading accessories in it—now you have a portable reading nook

5. Schedule Time to Read

Life gets busy and stressful. Especially in the interesting times during which we are living. We may miss reading time because other priorities or events get in the way. Remember, if it’s not on the schedule, it’s not done.Set a specific time on a specific date or day of the week for reading.

While you’re at it, schedule library borrowing time or Book shopping time.

6. Use a Reading Tracker

Nick Wignall introduced me to the so-called Seinfeld Method to track your reading. Put a wall or desk calendar in your reading nook or with your reading accessories. When you accomplish your reading goal, whether it’s minutes, hours, or pages, fill in a square on the calendar with a brightly colored marker. On a day when you don’t accomplish your goal, put a big fat X. The point is to make it visible. You can easily see how often you’re meeting your goal. Bet you’ll want to see if you can achieve your goal more days in a row. And you can adjust your goal up or down as needed. 

I keep a spreadsheet and a journal. Both are also for my writing. I add the book’s title on the start date & the end date. (I’m nerdy like that.)

7. Join a Book Club or Find a Book Buddy

Join a book club. Or if groups make you uncomfortable, find a reading buddy or two.

Listening to what others say about the book expands your experience. Is your experience different from theirs? Why do you think you experienced it differently? Did you learn something new from what the others said?

You can find virtual book clubs and book buddies on social media platforms. 

8. Journal Your Reading

This is important for me. I read and write so much, it’s often difficult to remember if that book was about this.

Journal about the book you’re reading. Jot notes about identifiers or memory jogs like the setting, time, characters, and character goals. Or write about what specifically you like about the book, what don’t you like, what intrigues you, what do you wish you knew more about. Need more suggestions? Read #9 Explore the book.

9. Explore the Book

When you encounter a word you don’t know—look it up. If using your smart phone distracts you and you end up down a social media rabbit-hole—use a physical book. You can buy a cheap paperback dictionary for just a few dollars.

Is there a foreword or afterword? Did you read it? How did it improve or add to your experience reading the book?

Look up the setting on the internet. It might be real. In my Fellowship Dystopia series, I used some actual locations and some real routes.

Use your imagination to “be in the setting.” What sights, scents, textures, and sounds are there? Is one stronger than the others? What one sight or sound or scent reminds you of the book?

Look up the story concept of a science fiction novel online. See if you can figure out what information inspired the author.

Explore the characters. Are they real-life characters? Read a short online bio to see how true to reality the writer made that character. 

Write a letter to a character or write a letter as if you were one character writing the other.

10. Try the Audio Experience

woman reading a book while wearing headphones. Try audiobooks is one of 12 ways to increase your reading pleasure

Buy or borrow an audio book (yes, libraries will lend them). Listening to a book, you experience the story differently. If the narrator is skillful, it’s as pleasurable as reading to yourself.

Try reading aloud to increase your reading pleasure. Read to a child or to yourself. Reading aloud will help you read each word and process the book differently from reading silently. Some authors have rhyming or rhythmic styles that are quite pleasurable to read out loud. 

11. Learn more about the Author

Many authors have websites with bios and bits of information about their life and their writing. Visit their Amazon author pages, or Goodreads bios, or look them up on Twitter or Facebook. Instagram has a special hashtag called bookstagram you might enjoy.

12. Send the Author Feedback

Write a review on the online store where you bought the book or on the author’s website in the comments or send them an email. If you discover you like several of the author’s books, join their newsletter or their street team.

I hope you enjoyed and found 12 Ways to Increase Your Reading Pleasure helpful. Do you do any of these things? Which ones work best for you?