WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Woman of the Week – Virgie Ammons

Posted September 30, 2019 4:30 PM by lmno24

For the next few months, we’ve decided to dig into the CR4 archives and expand upon some blog posts from 2007. Back then, we published a series of lists of women inventors and now we will write full blog posts about those who have yet to be featured. Do you know of a great person to be a subject? Let us know!

Virgie Ammons is credited for an invention that helps keep those with indoor fireplaces safe. In 1975, she received a patent for a fireplace dampening actuator tool.

There’s not much known about her. Most sources say she lived in West Virginia most of her life and was born in Maryland in 1908. The only information about her life could be found on this site, which noted she was a self-employed caretaker.

At some point, she came up with the idea for the fireplace tool. The tool is used to open and close the damper on a fireplace. A fluttering damper can make an irritating sound, but if the fireplace is hot it’s impossible to touch. The damper controls the draft to the fire, so it’s a crucial part of adjusting a fireplace or wood stove for either cooking or warmth.

In the patent abstract, she described the common problem of a fluttering damper being both irritating and a waste of energy and heat. Fireplaces and wood stoves were the main way people heated their homes during her lifetime.

Her invention also prevented dust from blowing down the chimney and back into the house. Her invention allowed the fireplace to remain locked in the closed position, which likely helped a lot of people.

Well, hopefully it did. There’s no record of her invention going to market, but most of us don’t have chimney dust in our homes so perhaps someone expanded on her innovation at some point.

She died on July 12th, 2000 in a car accident. This video details her invention a bit more, if you’re curious. The patent can be viewed here.


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