You might think that the first dishwasher was invented by someone who spent years washing dishes, bemoaning the wasted time and the dishpan hands. Actually, Josephine Cochrane, who received the patent for the first working dishwasher, didn't spend that much time washing dishes. The real impetus for her invention was frustration over her servants breaking her heirloom china after fancy dinners.
Cochrane was a socialite who loved to entertain, but after her husband died in 1883, she was left with massive debt. Rather than selling off that beloved china, she focused on building a machine that would wash it properly. Her machine relied upon strong water pressure aimed at a wire rack of dishes, and she received a patent for the device in 1886. Cochrane claimed that inventing the machine was nowhere near as hard as promoting it [source: Lienhard]. At first, the Cochrane dishwasher tanked with individual consumers, as many households lacked the hot water heaters necessary to run it, and those that had the capacity balked at paying for something that housewives did for free. Undaunted, Cochrane sought appointments with large hotels and restaurants, selling them on the fact that the dishwasher could do the job they were paying several dozen employees to do. In time, however, more households acquired the device as greater numbers of women entered the workplace.