Popescu, Elena

Popescu, Elena
b. 1877 Romania
d. 5 September 1944 Bucharest (?), Romania
Romanian inventor of the Romanian needle threader.
Popescu came from a fairly prosperous family. Outwardly she led a conventional life as wife of an army officer and mother of nine children; yet, as her unpublished diaries reveal, even when caught up in the fighting in the First World War she led an intense inner life isolated from her surroundings and hardly guessed at even by many members of her family. She seems to have had a mechanical turn of mind, for at the age of 14 she achieved the invention which should have earned her some fame. One day, when home for the school holidays, she saw an elderly servant struggling to thread a needle. Popescu resolved to devise some means of making life easier for the servant. She tried using various materials, including animal and human hair and plant fibres, but finally settled on fine steel wire fashioned into a kind of crochet needle. This did not work too well at first, until its shape had been modified with use. Helped by a mechanically minded younger brother, she made two or three further threaders, which immediately impressed the neighbouring needlewomen. Fired by success, she made 20 or 30 more, but then her return to school occupied her mind to the exclusion of needle threaders. Some twenty years later, when visiting a haberdasher's shop in Bucharest, she noticed on sale a needle threader very similar to her own, advertised as "recently invented in the USA".
Further Reading
A.Stanley, 1993, Mothers and Daughters of Invention, Meruchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 581–3, 912–6.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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