A new Monopoly celebrates women. But what about the game’s own overlooked inventor?
"Ms. Monopoly" is a new version of the iconic board game. It "celebrates women trailblazers," according to Hasbro. Rich Uncle Pennybags has been booted and replaced by his niece. She is a young woman. She wears a blazer and 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 and 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," 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 at the start of the game. They get $1,900 versus $1,500. They also collect $240 each time they pass go. That's more than they usual $200. Players don't invest in real estate properties. They sink their money into inventions created by women. Examples include "WiFi ... chocolate chip cookies, solar heating and modern shapewear."
Antonia Noori Farzan of the Washington Post reported on the game. She noted critics have been quick to point out that the game does not acknowledge Lizzie Magie. Magie created the game upon which Monopoly was based at the turn of the 20th century.
Charles Darrow is the man widely credited with inventing Monopoly. He copied Magie's idea and sold it to Parker Brothers. The company later became a Hasbro brand. Mary Pilon the history 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, while 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 in 2015. Magie's game was patented in 1904. It sought to spread George's ideas about the injustices of a system that 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 with nine spaces on each side. It had corners for the Poor House, Public Park and 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 and pay rent. There were two sets of rules for the game. One was "anti-monopolist," in which all players were rewarded when wealth was generated. The other was "monopolist," in which the goal was to accrue wealth 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 herself wrote 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 of the game. These included local landmarks. There was an iteration created by Quakers in Atlantic City. It included a Boardwalk and a Park Place. That was the version Darrow first encountered in 1932. At the time he was unemployed. His fortunes would change when he sold the game to Parker Brothers. That was in 1935. His game included the Quakers' changes. Darrow claimed the idea as his own 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 ultimately a celebration of enterprising capitalism. The very opposite of the message that Magie hoped to convey. The game is still a best-seller.
A Hasbro spokeswoman stressed to the Los Angeles Times 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.
"However," the spokeswoman 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 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?"