Josephine Cochrane makes a splash with dishwashing invention 

Josephine Cochrane's dishwashing invention makes a splash

Josephine Garis Cochrane is the brains behind one of the world’s most-used kitchen appliances

Just who invented the dishwashing machine? Children’s author Kate Hannigan and illustrator Sarah Green enlighten the world with the forgotten story of the dishwashing machine’s inventor. Josephine Garis Cochrane created the dishwashing machine to help women in the kitchen. It took a bit longer to reach the home kitchen, but with time it did end up in the kitchen. We take the dishwashing machine for granted today. Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine is a quick read and inciteful exploration of an inventor long forgotten.

Many Americans have a dishwasher in their kitchen. But who invented it?

Meet Josephine Garis Cochrane: entrepreneur, innovator, girlboss. Washing dishes is a pain—it leaves Josephine’s cups cracked, her dishes dinged, and her chowder bowls chipped. She’d rather be picking flowers, frosting cakes, or playing piano than dealing with cracked crockery. What to do about a chore that’s icky, destructive, and time-consuming? Josephine tackles this task the modern way: she makes a machine to do it for her! She tinkers and tests, and perseveres through fizzles and flops—until she has a government patent for her invention, and there are whirring, whizzing, bubbling dishwashers making a splash across America.

Josephine Cochrane's dishwashing invention makes a splash

This charming tale includes an author’s note, a list of notable women inventors, a timeline of fascinating inventions, and a list of sources.

Kate Hannigan is a Chicago children’s author who writes fiction and nonfiction for young readers. A former newspaper journalist, she is the author of numerous children’s books, including A Lady Has the Floor and Nellie vs. Elizabeth.

Sarah Green is a RISD-educated illustrator and designer from San Francisco. She is the illustrator of numerous picture books, including Fight of the Century by Barb Rosenstock and Born Hungry by Alex Prud’homme.

Josephine Cochrane's dishwashing invention makes a splash

Cochrane’s first customers were not the housewives she thought she was helping. They didn’t want to spend the money on something they didn’t really need, so she turned to hotels.  After selling a dishwashing machine to the Palmer House hotel in Chicago, she had one recommendation.  Then she did one of the hardest things she’d ever done: she made a cold call to the Sherman House hotel in Chicago, waiting in the ladies’ parlor to speak with the manager.  “You asked me what the hardest part of getting into business was,” she once told a reporter. “…I think, crossing the great lobby of the Sherman House alone. You cannot imagine what it was like in those days … for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father —the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t—and I got an $800 order as my reward.”

In 1912, at 73 years old, Cochran was still personally selling her machines.  She died in 1913.  In 1916, her company was bought out by Hobart which became KitchenAid and is now Whirlpool Corporation.