A new Monopoly celebrates women. But what about the game’s own overlooked inventor?
"Ms. Monopoly" is a new version of the well-known board game. It "celebrates women trailblazers." That's according to Hasbro. Rich Uncle Pennybags has been booted. He has been replaced by his niece. She is a young woman. She wears a blazer. She holds a cup of coffee. She is ready for a round of seed funding.
Hasbro announced the launch of game. It seeks to spotlight women's innovations. It wants to call attention to the gender wage gap.
"With all of the things surrounding female empowerment, it felt right to bring this to Monopoly in a fresh new way." That's what Jen Boswinkel told Kelly Tyko of USA Today. Boswinkel is senior director of global brand strategy and marketing. She works for Hasbro Gaming.
"It's giving the topic some relevancy to everyone playing it that everybody gets a turn. And this time women get an advantage at the start."
Female players get more money from the banker than guys. This happens at the start of the game. They get $1,900. Men get $1,500. They also collect $240. This happens each time they pass go. That's more than they usual $200. Players don't invest in real estate. They sink their money into inventions. They are created by women. Examples include "WiFi ... chocolate chip cookies, solar heating and modern shapewear."
Antonia Noori Farzan works for the Washington Post. She reported on the game. She noted critics have been quick to point out that the game does not acknowledge Lizzie Magie. She created the game upon which Monopoly was based. She created it at the turn of the 20th century.
Charles Darrow is the man widely credited with inventing Monopoly. He copied Magie's idea. He sold it to Parker Brothers. The company later became a Hasbro brand. Mary Pilon wrote about the history. That was in a 2017 Smithsonian article. She is the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game. Darrow became fabulously wealthy. Magie was largely forgotten. She sold her patent to Parker Brothers. She sold it for a mere $500
The game that Magie invented was anti-monopolist. She believed in the principles of Henry George. He was an American economist. He believed that "individuals should own 100 percent of what they made or created. But that everything found in nature, particularly land, should belong to everyone."
Pilon wrote about it in the New York Times. That was in 2015. Magie's game was patented. That was in 1904. It sought to spread George's ideas. Those ideas were about the injustices of a system. It allowed landowners to grow increasingly rich off their holdings. This happened while the working classes poured their money into rent.
It was called the Landowner's Game. It consisted of a rectangular board. It had nine spaces on each side. One corner was the Poor House. One corner was the Public Park. And one corner was the Jail. That's where you were sent if you landed on the "Go to Jail" square.
Players would move around the board. They would buy up various franchises. They would earn money. They would pay rent. There were two sets of rules. One was "anti-monopolist." Players were rewarded. That happened when wealth was generated. The other was "monopolist." The goal was to accrue wealth. This happened while crippling the other players.
"Her dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior," Pilon wrote in the Times.
"Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system." Magie wrote that in a 1902 article. "And when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied."
The game proved popular among left-leaning intellectuals. Various communities began to make their own versions. These included local landmarks. There was one created by Quakers. They were in Atlantic City. It had a Boardwalk. And it had a Park Place. That was the version Darrow first saw. That was in 1932. At the time he was unemployed. His fortunes would change. That was when he sold the game. He sold it to Parker Brothers. That was in 1935. His game included the Quakers' changes. Darrow claimed the idea as his own. He did so in a letter to the company.
"Being unemployed at the time, and badly needing anything to occupy my time, I made by hand a very crude game for the sole purpose of amusing myself," he wrote. That's according to Farzan.
Magie was initially happy to sell her patent to Parker Brothers. She hoped that the company's backing would help her philosophies reach a mass audience. But Monopoly was a celebration of capitalism. The very opposite of the message that Magie hoped to convey. The game is still a best-seller.
A Hasbro spokeswoman spoke to the Los Angeles Times. She said that "The Monopoly game as we know it was invented by Charles Darrow, who sold his idea to Parker Brothers in 1935." This came in the wake of the release of Ms. Monopoly.
She continued, "there have been a number of popular property-trading games throughout history. Elizabeth Magie-a writer, inventor and feminist-was one of the pioneers of land-grabbing games."
Ms. Monopoly cannot truly pay tribute to women inventors. Not without recognizing the woman who gave rise to the iconic game. That's in the eyes of Magie's modern-day admirers.
"If @Hasbro actually wanted to celebrate women's empowerment with their new 'Ms. Monopoly' game," Pilon tweeted, "why not *finally* acknowledge that a woman invented Monopoly in the first place?"