The Story of 5 Women and Their Incredible Inventions - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

Inspiring Women

The Story of 5 Women and Their Incredible Inventions

Their amazing stories …and the men who stole all the credit.

By 

Elizabeth Magie

Unlike most women of her era, Elizabeth Magie supported herself and didn’t marry until she was 44. She worked various jobs and spent her leisure time performing standup comedy and creating a board game that was an expression of her strongly held political beliefs.

The Story of 5 Women and Their Incredible Inventions

She was in her 30s when she applied for a patent for her game in 1903, after years of developing and revising the game. She represented the less than 1 percent of all patent applicants at the time who were women. (Elizabeth also dabbled in engineering; in her 20s, she invented a gadget that allowed paper to pass through typewriter rollers with more ease.)

In 1904 she started producing her board game, which she called Landlords as a criticism of capitalism and land monopolism. She had created two sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. Her dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior.

The Story of 5 Women and Their Incredible Inventions

In an ironic twist, Charles Darrow stole the idea from her and sold it to Parker Brothers as Monopoly. He got all the credit, but now we know that all those game-night family feuds were really thanks to Elizabeth Magie. The completely fabricated tale, repeated for decades and tucked into the game’s box, was that an unemployed man named Charles Darrow invented the game in the 1930s. He sold it and became a millionaire, his inventiveness saving him — and Parker Brothers, the beloved New England board game maker — from the brink of destruction. It’s a great ‘American Dream’ story — except it isn’t true.

As they realized that the game would be a success, Parker Brothers convinced Elizabeth to accept $500 for the patent for The Landlord Game and two other games she created, with no royalties. She had no idea that other game inventors had gotten paid much, much more for their inventions, or that Parker Brothers would do their best to erase her name from history.

The Story of 5 Women and Their Incredible Inventions

The New York Times reported that, in a series of 1936 interviews, she expressed anger at Darrow’s appropriation of her idea. Then elderly, her gray hair tied back in a bun, she hoisted her own game boards before a photographer’s lens to prove that she was the game’s true creator. “Probably, if one counts lawyer’s, printer’s and Patent Office fees used up in developing it,” The Evening Star said, “the game has cost her more than she made from it.”

In 1948, Elizabeth Magie died alone, in relative obscurity and relatively poor. Neither her headstone nor her obituary mentions her role in the creation of Monopoly.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time traveling around Europe, with pied-a-terre's in Zurich, London, Milan and Lyon, France. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 121 Comments

  1. Cindy Frazier

    Maria Beasley is a life saver. Thanks to you, you saved a lot of lives!

  2. Karla Alvarez

    I will let my daughter read this. This should be at school too. A lot of people doesn’t have any idea who these women are, and men are underestimating women. This is a proof that women are not that easy.

  3. Kelly Osborne

    Informative article. Keep posting articles like this because we learn a lot from this. Some of these can’t be taught at school.

  4. Myron Stephens

    Women of Ancient Mesopotamia?? They are the inventors of the beer?!! Hail to them!!

  5. Jodi Thornton

    Those men should’ve known better! They took a big piece of those women’s lives! Let’s all be aware on who invented these amazing things. Thank you to those women who shared their ideas to the world. They could have improved their lives and lived it easy if those men didn’t steal their inventions.

  6. Marsha Reed

    There should be more originality in people. They need to stop stealing ideas.

    • Maggie Lawrence

      I didn’t know this until today. Honesty is the best policy.

    • Lydia Erickson

      At least we all know now that those ideas weren’t from those men.

    • Patricia Mann

      They just oppressed these women because of their lack in decency!

    • Maxine Hanson

      It’s so hard to be original nowadays as other people may have had that idea already. But then directly stealing other people’s ideas whilst fully aware that you are about to steal them is a different story.?

  7. Catherine Lewis

    Those men just ranaway with the money those women deserved. Sometimes it’s not even just because of money, it’s the act itself that’s disappointing!

  8. Bernadette Garza

    Wow, that’s a lame move. Women are so creative that men had to steal their ideas.

  9. Pam Reyes

    Isn’t it easier to be nice? And just acknowledge good deeds and not steal people’s ideas? I don’t get it.

    • Michele Adkins

      Their ideas were awesome in general, which is why those men felt the need to steal their inventions.

    • Tara Norman

      Now we know what they did and that’s even funnier.

  10. Myra Sullivan

    Informative stuff! Some of us need to be aware that this still happens nowadays.

    • Terri Ferguson

      It does and it’s really sad that we keep on going back to the roots of evil. Just sad.

Load 10 more comments

Join in the Conversation! Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *