Miriam E. Benjamin was a school teacher living in Washington D.C. In 1888, Ms. Benjamin received a patent for an invention she called a Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. Her chair, as she stated in her patent application would “reduce the expenses of hotels by decreasing the number of waiters and attendants, to add to the convenience and comfort of guests and to obviate the necessity of hand clapping or calling aloud to obtain the services of pages.”
The system worked by pressing a small button on the back of a chair which would relay a signal to a waiting attendant. At the same time a light would illuminate on the chair allowing the attendant to see which guest was in need of assistance. The system was adopted and installed within the United States House of Representatives and was the predecessor of the methods used today on airplanes to signal stewardesses.
Ms. Benjamin was the second Black woman to receive a patent.