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Women’s History: The Woman who Invented the Monopoly Game

Playing Monopoly may have been your first exposure to banking and property ownership. What you might not have known is that although a man got credit for its invention, the idea for Monopoly originally came from a woman.  According to biography.com, “[Lizzie] Magie created her game as a teaching tool for single tax theory, a popular political movement in her time led by Henry George.”

While a man named Charles Darrow took credit for a version of Monopoly that promotes the idea of getting all that you can, Magie’s original version, called The Landlord’s Game, was a teaching tool to turn people away from “…the big monopolists of her time—people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.” (womenshistory.org).

Magie was also an inventor and one of the few women in her time to hold a patent.

Darrow learned the game and then sold a version he had learned from Quaker friends to Parker Bothers but he and the company spread the story that Darrow invented the game on his own. And for some this idea that one man came up with this all on his own is more appealing than the idea that a woman who was proud feminist and sparked a bit of controversy in her day was behind such a game.

Another man, Ralph Anspach, unearthed the game’s origins “ yet the Darrow myth persists as an inspirational parable of American innovation.”  Decades after Magie tried to use a game to protest against monopolies, Anspach found evidence of Magie’s game while gathering evidence for his own fight to promote an anti-Monopoly game.

Magie saw little profit from the game even when she tried to lay claim to it. She did hope that despite someone else altering and taking credit, her ideas would spread but “…the vast majority of commercial Monopoly players even then had little to no idea they were learning about single tax theory” (biography.com).

Sources with more information about Lizzie Magie and The Landlord’s Game:

6 Facts About Lizzie Magie: Monopoly’s Lost Female Inventor

Monopoly’s Lost Female Inventor