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.

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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 in France, NYC, London and Switzerland, and travels extensively around the world. 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 brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 102 Comments

  1. Kristen Wright

    I wouldn’t blame the history during those times because even education was being restrained for women. That woman should just stay home and take care their husbands.

    • Sasha Smith

      yes, youre right. We are just so lucky that today we can now express ourselves with the same respect given to men. Nowadays we can now studies, work and even vote. I just wish other talented and gifted girls will be given the opportunity to shine. 🙂

  2. Kenya Cordova

    If only people would just stop the criticism about women. We would all be proud of the accomplishments of both genders made.

  3. Well, there was a lot of style of clothes that were made for men yet are now being worn by women.

  4. Betty Whitmer

    I can’t believe that women invented these amazing things! And it’s cool that these inventions weren’t all girly things.

  5. Geraldine Pettigrew

    I felt so lucky to be a woman after seeing these brilliant inventions and at the same time offended because of what those selfish men did who stole those ideas and credited it for themselves,

  6. Manuel Delgado

    It seems that women have made a lot of contributions to the discoveries and inventions in the history of civilization. 😲

  7. William Dean

    Is there a women’s history month? Because I’ve already found men get way too much credit for women’s inventions, conventions, & discoveries.

  8. Joyce Shealy

    Throughout history, so many men stole women’s ideas and received credit for their work and inventions. It’s so pathetic

  9. Earline Wilham

    Learning about women in the history of inventions is fascinating – who knew that women were would invent these such great things!

  10. Chelsea Handley

    This is why we think all inventions were made by men. Because women have been systematically erased from history. And even stole their inventions and were credited from those who’ve stolen it.

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