The Wright Sister

Kathairne WrightOne of the earliest woman entrepreneurs

Everyone knows the Wright brothers: Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright who invented world’s first successful air plane, more than 110 years ago.

What about Katharine Wright? Almost no one knows her, forget remembering her!

But, Katharine Wright, sister of the famous Wright brothers, was part of their success, by supporting their experiments.

Many years before inventing the air plane, Wright brothers were successful entrepreneurs by launching their own local newspaper, operating a print shop and running a bicycle manufacturing company called “Wright Cycle Company”.

In fact, the success of their bicycle company gave the Wright brothers the confidence (and financial cushion) to play with expensive flying devices.

They didn’t smell success in day 1. Just like all other inventors of that era, they had to fail more often, learn from their mistakes and constantly invent newer things from simple parts to control devices, to move ahead.

This needed time and money. Wright brothers couldn’t spare both at the same time. If they spend time in the cycle factory, they will make money to experiment; but then, who will do the actual nuts and bolts work for the flying device?

This is where Katharine came to her brothers’ rescue. She took over the day to day operations of “Wright Cycle Company” from Orville and Wilbur, so that they can focus all their time and energy on inventing a flying device. When the cycle company continues to run, they will also get the dollar power required for their activities.

Everyone knows the climax in this story, Wright brothers invented a true flying device and this changed the human history forever.

Today, Wright brothers’ names are studied by everyone. But Katharine’s name is a footnote in the history. She deserves praise for helping the invention of air plane, even though she is not a scientist on her own!

This story sounds familiar?

Almost every entrepreneurial story has a “Katharine” in it. A company will be started by three or four friends or family members; it will reach great heights and achieve success, thanks to everyone’s hard work at different levels. But, few “Katharine”s will not get all the media attention because of few other partners who take the limelight all the time.

This doesn’t mean Wright brothers or the famous founders of big corporations purposefully avoided making their “Katharines” famous. It is just that history has a practice of remembering few names and assigning them against one or two individuals. We also like reading “Super Man” stories than looking at the entire team effort that is required behind making a “Super Man” as “Super”.

Thankfully, “Katharines” don’t seem to mind that. They just do their work (what is required for the corporation to go ahead with its duty) and are happy with the satisfaction of a work well done!

*Photo Credit: Wikipedia



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