Marion Donovan

Who was she?

Marion O’Brien Donovan was an American inventor. She was one of the most prolific female inventors of her time. She received 20 patents for her inventions. Among these inventions was the first cloth diaper cover and later on the disposable diaper. Marion was even inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015! 


Coming from a family of inventors Marion grew up always making new things! Her father and uncle even invented the “South Bend lathe,” used for grinding automobile gears.

Before family 

After Marion graduated she took a job at Vogue magazine in New York. Soon she married James Donovan who was a leather importer. She resigned from her position to start a family.


When Donovan became a mother her career as an inventor began! Like all mothers, Donovan struggled with her baby wetting through diapers. When this would happen it would soak through sheets and become a lot of constant work. After awhile Marion thought to herself “well there must be a better way!” She began thinking of a way to create a waterproof cover and decided to experiment with cutting and sewing her shower curtain. She used her sewing machine to design and perfect a reusable, leakproof diaper cover that did not, like the rubber baby pants of the time, create diaper rash. It was called the “Boater” because it helped babies “stay afloat.” The final product was made of nylon parachute cloth and featured plastic snaps.


The diaper covers’ debut happened at New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949. Soon after Marion started work to create the disposable paper diaper. This was not easy by any means. She needed to make sure it was extra safe for babies. She worked with many materials until finding an option that didn’t cause rashes. Her exact design words were  “you need a diaper that will wick the moisture away from the baby’s skin, rather than absorbing the moisture and retaining it inertly.”  

After the disposable design was complete, Donovan marketed to a ton of big paper companies but was unsuccessful. She was called ridiculous and said nobody would buy such an unnecessary item. After about ten years Victor Mills ( creator of Pampers®) used her idea to create the first disposable diaper.

That’s my mini history lesson on Marion Donovan! Hope you all enjoyed!

Stand for what you stand on,