On Tuesday, game-maker Hasbro introduced Ms. Monopoly, “the first game in the franchise that celebrates women trailblazers.” The press release goes on to say, “Ms. Monopoly was created to inspire everyone, young and old as it spotlights women who have challenged the status quo.” Instead of purchasing properties, players buy “groundbreaking inventions and innovations made possible by women throughout history” and “instead of building houses, you build business headquarters.” While Ms. Monopoly, the new character featured on this game box, is described as “an advocate whose mission is to invest in female entrepreneurs”, the Hasbro press release fails to mention Lizzie Magie, the woman, a true trailblazer, pioneering entrepreneur, and status quo challenger, who invented Monopoly and was awarded a patent for her statement-making board game in 1904.
We only learned about Lizzie in 2017 from the National Women’s History Museum and want to make sure everyone knows about her too. “Monopoly was originally designed by a woman; Elizabeth Magie filed a patent for the game in 1903. It was originally called ‘The Landlord’s Game,’ but has many similarities to today’s Monopoly. There are ‘R.R.’ squares on all four sides and jail in one corner. Magie applied for another patent in 1924 for an updated version of the game. In 1935 she sold the right for the game to Parker Brothers for $500. The company then began selling it with a story about how struggling salesman Charles Darrow invented the game in his basement to support his family,” via NWHM on Facebook.
For a deeper dive into Lizzie’s story, her motivation for inventing Monopoly (what she was rebuking through her design), how her idea was taken by a man, and how she continues to be erased from the iconic game’s history, check out this great piece by Antonia Noori Farzan for The Washington Post. In it she brings many fascinating and infuriating points to light, including… “Hasbro still maintains that Darrow was the creator of Monopoly.”
Printed patent drawing for a game board invented by Lizzie J. Magie, via U.S. National Archives