Though it was a belated recognition, Rosalind Franklin is acknowledged to have determined the overall B-form of the DNA helix (Wikipedia) for which Francis Crick and James Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize. Men taking credit for women’s ideas isn’t new. But a new book by Mary Pilon documents the history of the board game, Monopoly which begins with the revelation that its creator was a woman, Lizzie Magie. She patented her invention in 1903, intending to use it as a teaching tool to show how capitalism works and the importance of sharing. (“Do Not Collect” by Jen Doll, The New Republic, 2/15, pgs. 56-57.)
As reviewer Jen Doll writes, Pilon’s book, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, is chock full of tidbits perfect to drop at a cocktail party. One of them is that during World War II, the boards were sent to American and Allied prisoners of war with maps hidden inside to assist the men in their attempts to escape. (Ibid pg 57) Another little known fact is that the floppy-boot game piece didn’t appear until the Depression, a symbol for the down and out worker. (Ibid pg. 57.)
Also less well known is that Charles Darrow, whom many think invented Monopoly, somehow managed to sell the game to Parker Brothers for $7,000 in the 1930s, a king’s ransom at the time. Various versions followed. In the 1970s, economist Ralph Anspach, developed Anti-Monopoly in a bid restore Magie’s original idea of teaching the social responsibilities of wealth. Parker Brothers, however, threatened to take him to court for patent infringement, though Charles Darrow, the man who sold them the game, never owned the patent. Nonetheless, Anti-Monopoly never got off the ground.
As we close Woman’s History Month, let us celebrate women’s achievements, large and small, which, thanks to the internet, are coming to light. Who knows? Perhaps one day someone will discover the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo de Vinci’s wife.