On May 5, 1809, Mrs. Mary Kies of South Killingly was the first woman in the United States to receive a patent. Her patent was for a new way to braid straw with silk and other threads in the making of women’s bonnets. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, many New England women were employed in the weaving of straw hats: a vital early industry. First Lady Dolley Madison – a great hat lover – praised Connecticut native Kies for her contribution to American hatmaking. Kies’ original patent materials were destroyed in the U.S. Patent Office fire in 1836.