MOTHER OF INVENTION: How Good Ideas Get Ignored In An Economy Built For Men





  • Why didn’t we get wheels on suitcases until 1972?
  • Why were electric cars considered “feminine” when they first arrived more than 100 yers ago?
  • How come a bra making company created the suit Neil Armstrong wore to the moon?

An illuminating and maddening examination of how gender bias has skewed innovation, technology, and history

It all starts with a rolling suitcase. Though the wheel was invented some five thousand years ago, and the suitcase in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that someone successfully married the two. What was the hold up? The answer is both shocking and simple: because “real men” carried their bags, no matter how heavy.

Mother of Invention is a fascinating and eye-opening examination of business, technology, and innovation through a feminist lens. Because it wasn’t just the suitcase. Gender bias stifles the economy and holds us back, delaying innovations, sometimes by hundreds of years, and distorting our understanding of our history. While we talk about the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, we might as well talk about the “Ceramic Age” or the “Flax Age,” since these technologies were just as important. But inventions associated with women are not considered to be technology in the same way.

This is a sweeping tour of the global economy with a powerful message: if we upend our biases, we can unleash our full potential.


“This at-once anecdotal and theoretical book seeks to understand what’s lost when women’s social contributions are limited, as well as ways to move toward a new model. The author’s writing shines when she addresses perceptions of women throughout history; she particularly carefully unpacks how Black and brown women have historically been restricted and misrepresented, and the misconceptions that endure… A must-read.”

Library Journal

“A smart, witty, and fascinating warning from history. I loved this book.”

Bestselling author of Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez

“[A] quirky treatise…Told in a conversational tone, this feminist directive…fascinates with its wealth of historical tidbits. Fans of Caroline Criado-Perez’s Invisible Women, take note.”

Publishers Weekly

“The joy of the book is how it manages to weave in stories of women influencing innovation in masculine spaces…Innovation may have been stifled by gender bias in the past, but Mother of Invention shows that we can choose a different future.”

Science Magazine

“[A] breezy read… Each chapter uses an animating story…to offer free-flowing ruminations on patriarchy, economics, and invention.”


“From wheeled suitcases to witch trials, Katrine Marçal makes you look again at history in this funny, clever, and provocative book.”

Author of Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights, Helen Lewis

“A clearly needed wake-up call to future innovators not to view the world through a narrowly gendered lens but to pay attention to the skills and lived experiences of all.”

Bestselling author of The Gendered Brain, Professor Gina Rippon

“This second book by the author of Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? is both bracing and highly entertaining. Marcal’s contention is that while women have been coming up with ingenious inventions since the beginning of time, they are routinely sidelined in a world geared to men.”


”A book with a radical agenda”

The Times

”A leap in new thinking…She brilliantly proves how male-driven technology over the ages has limited full human development by neglecting a liberating female narrative and perspective”

Jan Eliasson Former Deputy Secretary General of the UN

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, believed that our actions stem from self-interest and the world turns because of financial gain.

But every night Adam Smith’s mother served him his dinner, not out of self-interest but out of love…

Today, economics disregards the unpaid work of mothering, caring, cleaning and cooking and its influence has spread from the market to how we shop, think and date…

This engaging takedown of the economics that has failed us, journeys from Adam Smith’s dinner table to the financial crisis and shows us how different, how much better, things could be.

If economics hadn’t forgotten about women…


“A smart, funny, readable book on economics, money [and] women” 

Margaret Atwood

“Marçal writes about Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique — in its own way, this vivid, entertaining work is equally groundbreaking.” 

The Boston Globe

It’s 200 pages of angry polemic – which is a total compliment!

Steve Eisman (known from The Big Short)

“A sprawling, engaging feminist polemic. Interesting.”

New York Times Book Review

“A no-holds-barred critique of how modern economic theory has largely excluded the contributions of women. She drives her point home with the ferocity of a hammer striking an anvil: economic man is a fiction that excludes women.”  


A well-written and thoroughly researched call to change economics into a discipline that makes “room for the entire human existence” that all economists would do well to heed.” 

Science News

An excellent argument for the value of feminism as an analytical lens. A masterpiece of rhetoric, clearheaded analysis, and critical imagination. a model of radical thought.

New Republic