The National Business League

Founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington – August 23, 1900


Bessie Blount

Bessie Blount

Assistive feeding device for disabled veterans

At the age of seven, Bessie Blount was reprimanded for writing with her left hand. In response, she taught herself to write with her teeth and feet. As an adult in the health care field, this ingenuity and determination would lead her to inventive solutions that made life better for people living with disabilities.

Blount began her career studying nursing and physical therapy. Many of her patients were veterans of World War II who had lost arms in the conflict, and Blount was able to teach them how to write using the same techniques she learned as a child. Wishing to do more to help veterans remain autonomous in their daily lives, Blount developed a device to allow those who went through double-amputations to feed themselves, receiving U.S. patent no. 2,550,554 in 1951. The person using the device would first bite down on a tube, activating a motor that would dispense a portion of food through a spoon shaped mouthpiece, at which point the motor would shut off, allowing for time to chew, swallow, rest, and repeat.

Although Blount’s invention was received with enthusiasm from the medical community and from abroad, she was not as successful in the commercial market of the United States. She eventually signed the rights to the patent over to the French government for use in their military hospitals. Explaining her decision to give up on seeking monetary reimbursement for her patent, Blount stated, “It’s what we as a race have contributed to humanity—that as a black female we can do more than nurse their babies and clean their toilets.”

Blount later worked as a forensic handwriting analyst, having picked up these skills by noticing trends in the handwriting of her patients. She trained at the Scotland Yard in the 1970s, and served as an expert documentation witness back in the United States. She died at the age of 95 in 2009