Marion Donovan, 81, a one-time housewife who invented the...


November 20, 1998

Marion Donovan, 81, a one-time housewife who invented the forerunner of the disposable diaper and went on to hold more than a dozen patents, died Nov. 4 in New York.

In 1946, when her newborn second daughter proved as reliable a source for soggy cloth diapers as her first, Mrs. Donovan began searching for a way to seal in wetness without sealing out air.

After years of working with waterproof shower curtain material, she concocted the Boater, a reusable diaper cover made from nylon parachute cloth. Along the way she replaced safety pins with plastic snaps. The diaper covers were a smash hit when they went on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949.

By 1951, Mrs. Donovan, who had relinquished a job as an assistant beauty editor at Vogue, had sold her patent rights for $1 million and was working on bigger and better things -- replacing cloth diapers with disposable absorbent paper.

A decade later, babies were wearing Pampers, the first mass-produced disposable diaper.

Helen Herrick Malsed, 88, a homemaker who in the 1950s came up with the idea of turning the Slinky into a pull toy, died Nov. 13 in Seattle.

Tase Matsunaga, 114, the woman known to be Japan's oldest person, died Wednesday. She was born May 11, 1884.

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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