The Woman Who Revolutionized Dairy Farming

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is vital to tell the untold and forgotten stories of women who were innovators and leaders, especially of those women who made radical contributions during a time when their perceived role was to be seen and not heard.

Anna Baldwin using her milker and Anna later in life

Anna Baldwin using her milker and Anna later in life.

Would you believe that a New Jersey farmer revolutionized dairy farming in the late 1800s? Would you believe it if you knew her name was Anna? Well, you should, because Anna Baldwin did just that in 1879.

Baldwin owned a dairy farm in Newark, New Jersey with her husband, George Thompson Baldwin, where they sold dairy products at their farm stand. She patented her Hygienic Glove Milker on February 18, 1879 – which replaced catheter milking machines and manual milking.

There is little known about Anna Baldwin, and it’s unlikely that she had any formal education outside of grammar school. Secondary education wasn’t even a possibility for women until at least 1821 when Emma Willard founded the Female Seminary – which was formed to teach young women to be ladies and know their places in society. It wasn’t until 1855 that schools for female scholars became a reality with the founding of Vassar and later Wellesley College, right down the street from Vanguard Renewables.

The lack of formal education available to women during Baldwin’s life makes her achievements even more impressive. Women were excluded from learning engineering, advanced sciences, and mathematics, yet Baldwin created impressive inventions that became the inspiration for modern dairy farming machines.

Baldwin introduced her first of five patents in 1869 for a machine that improved the method to treat milk to create butter and other dairy products. She followed that the next year with two new patents; one that enhanced the milk separation process and for an improved cooling machine. Her fourth patent was a revised cooling machine. Her final invention was believed to be her greatest achievement; the Hygienic Glove Milker – and it changed how dairy farmers would implement milk production for decades to come.

Anna designed her invention to be less harmful and invasive than the catheter milking machine that used wood and quills to force open the utters to extract milk, which was known to cause harm to the teats, spread disease, and weaken the sphincter muscles.

According to Baldwin’s patent application from December 21, 1878, the device would use suction on all four utters to mimic hand milking. This innovation allowed dairy farmers to hasten the milking process and maximize milk production.

Automated milking has come a long way since Anna’s days and her story may have been lost to time, but it is one that deserves to be told and appreciated.

Anna Baldwin Patent Images