We’ve all been there.
Whether on a family gathering, or maybe when your friends are around, it’s not uncommon for someone to suggest a board game to entertain everyone.
And what seemed like a good idea at the time can quickly turn ugly.
The rolling dice, someone assuming the role of a bank, land to be purchased and sold, services, railroads and endless turns around the board as one person rises with the accumulation of wealth, while others get into mortgage after mortgage just to stay afloat.
We are talking, of course, of Monopoly, a classic game that’s been blamed for tarnished relationships and broken homes (at least for the one hour after the game ends).
For many of us, it’s the first memory we have of dealing with money, and the frustration it’s lack can cause.
But do you know the woman that can be traced to this classic game’s origins?
Meet Elizabeth (Lizzie) Magie
Born in 1866 in Illinois, United States, Lizzie was a progressive woman that supported herself as a newspaper publisher, was politically involved as an abolitionist and dedicated herself to several other endeavours.
At the mere age of 26 she received a patent on her invention that helped in the typewriting process, making it easier for the paper to go through. And this in a time where less than 1% of all patent applicants were women.
Being of high intellectual profile, and influenced by her father and the theories of economist Henry George, Lizzie became involved in the anti-monopolist movement, which lead to a obscure, but very influential creation.
The anti-monopolist seeds of Monopoly
Lizzie thus created the Landlord’s Game – the earliest precursor of the game we know today.
But the game came with two sets of rules: one closest to the rules we know, where each player aims to accumulate wealth at the expense of every opponent, leading competition to bankruptcy; and another one where the creation of wealth was beneficial to all players, which Monopoly didn’t adopt.
The objective? To illustrate the unfairness and dire results of monopolies.
So the rage and frustration that comes each time you play the game isn’t there by chance, but by design.
But as History shows, and economic theories aside, crushing your opponents does make for a more popular game.
Nevertheless, we hereby salute Lizzie, an extraordinary woman that greatly influenced our early relationship with money (even if some personal relationships took a hit in the process).
We stand today on the shoulders of great women
Today we also want to pay our respects to other great women whose ingenious mind and work helped us get where we are today and that have allowed us to push forward. For if everyone is able to push the ball just a bit further, there is no telling how far we can go.
Florence Parpart (dates unknown) – we owe her the invention of the electrical refrigerator (1914) after electricity became widely available. Imagine having to keep purchasing ice to store food at home.
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) – while technology is still a field that is very male-dominated, she is considered and known for being the world’s first computer programmer, having created the first machine algorithm which existed only on paper. And in the 1840s, nonetheless.
Evelyn Berezin (1925-2018) – in a different way than Ada above, she made it possible for you to be reading this today. This computer innovator was the mind behind Data Secretary, the world’s first electronic word processor.
Shirley Ann Jackson (born 1946) – not only was she the first African-American woman to get a doctorate degree, this theoretical physicist and telecommunications researcher is responsible for the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
Grace Hopper (1906-1992) – computer scientist and United-States Navy rear admiral. Known as the “First Lady of Software” and one of the first three modern computer programmers, her work was crucial for the development of COBOL, the most used computer programming language used in the 1970s and still used today.
Each of these women, among many others, have done their part to change the world. Now it is up to us.