Tough Broads – Marion O’Brien Donovan


In 1946, Marion O’Brien Donovan tore down her shower curtain and changed the world. Exhausted and frustrated, this young mother had been awakened in the night to find her baby soaked through once again, clothes, sheets and all. IMG_3457

Although rubber diaper covers were available, they often caused diaper rash and the elastic irritated babies’ tummies and legs. Marion knew there had to be another way.


The daughter of a mechanical engineer, she had grown up among people who met everyday problems with practical genius. That shower curtain became a prototype of the “Boater”, a diaper cover that would be made with breathable nylon parachute material, and would close with snaps. The absorbent material fitted into a slot, which kept it away from the baby’s skin and prevented leaks. Marion eventually received 4 patents for this invention, which became the precursor to disposable diapers. 


Marion’s daughter recalls that in their home, every room was a laboratory, covered in straws and staples, tape, and prototypes of new ideas. Always on the go and always eager to learn, Marion installed a homemade cup holder in her car before they were available, and rigged up a tape player there so that she could listen to French lessons.


Marion went on to earn a total of 20 patents for her ideas. After raising her children, she went to Yale, got her degree in architecture, and was one of only three women in her graduating class.


Let nothing stop you.

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