First Patent Granted to Woman Inventor for Cook Stove

Our blogs usually focus on British Columbia food history but the fact that the first patent granted to a woman in Canada was for a cook stove is worthy of a blog post.  The patent was granted pre-Canada, pre-Confederation in what was Upper Canada or Ontario today. Ruth Adams a resident of Toronto applied in June 1854, for a patent for a “reverse cooking stove.” She was granted the patent, number 492 on January 20, 1855, the first patent granted to a woman in Canada. The patent was granted under British patent law. Unfortunately no drawing is available that shows the design Adams intended. I am posting her patent application and possibly someone knows more about this patent; whether anyone ever manufactured her design, or perhaps even has a drawing of Ruth Adams’ design.

Her request for the patent read as follows:

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, Ruth Adams, of the city of Toronto, the county of York, and province of Canada, widow of the late Rev. Zenas Adams of the township of Esquesing, county of Halton, and province of Canada, have invented a reverse cooking stove and I do hereby declare that the following is a full and exact description thereof. No. 4 in the accompanying drawing is a cast iron furnace, may be about eighteen inches in height, and about thirteen in diameter, with a loose grate inside, both standing on an ash pan No. 9. No. 3 pan for heating flat iron, and for feeding the furnace. No. 2 sheet iron drum to receive the smoke from the furnace, wash boiler and heater. No. 1 pipes conveying the same.  No. 11 a boiler which may be made of wood, or other material, with a pipe running through it. If the tub be made of wood, for boiling clothes, the pipe should be made of zinc, and placed near one side so that the wash may be conveniently placed over it, and a sheet iron pipe inserted through it in order to strengthen it. A hole is made in one corner to draw off the water. No. 10, a movable grate on which wood or coal may be placed. The end of the grate is fastened to a shutter to close the end of the pipe. The under part of the projecting pipe is perforated to make the draught. No. 8 is a heater, either sheet or cast iron, with a grate near the bottom, on which wood or coal may be burned, with small holes on three sides under the grate for the draught and a slide under the bottom. No. 13 to let out the ashes. The heater should be made shallow, the top is smooth like a table. The furniture for boiling, frying etc. should have flat bottoms. A railing around the top is necessary in order to secure the furniture from falling. No. 8 tin oven about ten feet in circumference, enclosed by a tin hoop about five inches wide, and made to spread at the centre, so as to fit up to the furnace at top and bottom. No. 12 is a grate, supported near the centre of the oven, on which the bread etc. is placed. The circle is divided into two half rounds for convenience. No. 7 is a shutter to shut the ends in case only one half of the oven is wanted at a time. No. 6 lid of the oven removed. Underneath the drum is a valve made use of in conveying the smoke into it, when the pan is removed for feeding the furnace. My invention has the following advantages over other cooking stoves in use. 1st its entire cleanliness, beauty, and convenience. Clearly as in every part, the smoke and ashes are so secured that no inconvenience can arise therefrom. Beauty as even the pot and kettle being used on a smooth surface can be kept bright and clean. Convenient as its parts can be used within the whole, for instance, if washing is to be done when it would be unpleasant to have it in connexion with the other parts, the tub may be removed to a shed or any place where the pipe can have a place. If boiling and frying, the heater can be removed in the same way.

If the room is only to be warmed, the oven, boiler and heater may all be removed, a fender placed round the furnace, and you have a splendid stove. 2nd it insures saving of fuel. In other cooking stoves, most of the heat is wasted in the room while baking which in this is all saved by the oven, which bakes a large quantity at a time, with a very small quantity of fuel. In boiling clothes, a very little fuel in the pipe will soon boil a large quantity. In boiling, frying, etc., the heater being shallow and the fire being placed on a grate, with a general draught under it, a small quantity of fuel will be required. The heat may be choked by a damper in the pipe.  What I claim is my invention is the reversing the whole order as above described, for which I desire to secure letters patent.

Toronto, June 7, 1854                                     Ruth Adams


Since Ruth Adams’ drawing for her reverse cooking stove has apparently been lost, we can only speculate on what exactly was being reversed and what her design may have looked like. In the mid-1800s many patents for improved cooking stoves were proposed. The following three stoves were designed about the same time and could have been similar to Adams’. We can only guess….


Possible version of Ruth Adams' stove

Possible version of Ruth Adams’ stove (Moussette, p. 167)



Possible version of Ruth Adam's stove

Possible version of Ruth Adam’s stove (Moussette, p. 171)


Possible version of Ruth Adam's stove (Moussette, pl 179)

Possible version of Ruth Adam’s stove (Moussette, p. 179)


Moussette, Marcel (1972). Repertoire des fabricants d’appareils de chauffage de l’Ontario jusqu’a 1867. Travail Inedit Numero 125, Parcs Canada.

Ray, Randy & Kearney, Mark (1998). The great Canadian trivia, book 2. Toronto: Hounslow Press.

Patent papers assembled by Edmee Steiner, 1978, on loan from Ken Mather.