Bessie Blount Griffin
Blount was born in Hickory, Virginia. She trained in nursing and took postgraduate courses to become a licensed physiotherapist. When she was younger, she was reprimanded for writing with her left hand, so she taught herself to write with both hands, her feet and her teeth. Later in 1941 during WWII while volunteering with the Red Cross at veteran hospitals, Blount would teach amputee soldiers how to write with their feet and hands.
Blount built a non-automatic food receptacle device which she patented, but she is most notably known for inventing an automatic self-feeding device for disabled veterans. She worked on the invention for five years and spent $3000 of her own funds on it. After three years of trying to gain approval of the device from the disinterested American Veterans Administration, she licensed it freely to the French military. She worked as a physical therapist for Thomas Edison’s son and during that time she developed the disposable emesis basin for collecting body fluids and waste in hospitals. Again, this invention was dismissed, so she sold the rights to a Belgian company. Her design is still used in Belgian hospitals today.
Later in her life, Blount worked as an expert handwriting consultant working with police departments and law enforcement organizations such as the International Association of Forensic Sciences. She also interpreted and authenticated historical documents such as Native American treaties and slave trade documents. Blount passed on at the ripe age of 95.