Sure, sit-flat paper bags are not the condensing steam engine, the telegraph, pneumatic tools, or the dynamo generator but they represent something new: a woman entrepreneur.
After realizing the hassle of bags that would not stand Margaret Knight set out to create a machine for a bag with a flat bottom. She worked with three machinists.
The third machinist, Charles Anan, stole and patented the idea. Anan had asked to see what she was working on and outright ripped it off. During litigation the other machinists testified, Knight showed her notes, and Anan could not entirely explain his patent. Knight won and was awarded her patent in 1871.
She built a large bag business and spent her life making various other innovations, never marrying.
She worked hard: “At the age of seventy, [Knight] is working twenty hours a day on her 89th innovation,” reported the New York Times on Oct. 19, 1913. She died in 1914 with an estate worth $275.05.