Wrinkle-resistant cotton is material that we often take for granted. In the 1960’s, wrinkle-resistant cotton was a turning point in American history. Cotton was a cash crop; clothing was made from cotton, and still is to this day.
Cotton is easy to dye, snug, airy, and renewable. However, when the clothing would be washed, the fabric would unsuitably wrinkle. As a result the clothing would be uncomfortable to be worn. One women, Ruth Benerito, made a remarkable discovery; wrinkle-resistant cotton. Benerito’s discovery would impact the cotton industry forever. Ruth Mary Rogan was born on January 12, 1916 in New Orleans. At only age 15, she attended H Sophie Newcomb Memorial College. She then went to Tulane University where she gained a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemistry in 1935.
When Benerito received her bachelor’s degree, the Great Depression was in full affect. Nearly everyone was jobless, work was scarce, and finding occupation was impracticable for women. Throughout this time, Ruth taught in high schools west of new hometown. Around the time she married Frank Benerito, (1950’s) Ruth worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). During the Korean war (1950-1953) she arose a way to transport food through the vein to wounded soldiers who were severely sick and were not able to eat.
Another achievement by Benerito (the achievement she is most known for) is her research team concluded how to make cotton fibers wrinkle resistant. In order for this to work, the team had to toughen the bond amid cellulose molecules. The chemists placed little organic molecules between the bonds. As a result, an immense molecule held unlike properties from the original cellulose molecule. This new process called “cross-linking” keeps the polymers found in cotton from breaking apart. Therefore, when the clothing was washed, the clothing came out wrinkle free. After Benerito improved her way of attaching organic chemicals to the cotton fibers, new features were added to the fibers.
For example, stain resistant and flame resistant were added. The new wrinkle resistant cotton saved extensive hours of ironing time, and clothing was no longer uncomfortable to ware. Benerito’s benefaction to the new formulated version of cotton earned her a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008.