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.
Muriel Siebert (1928-2013) - Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, also known as “The First Woman of Finance”. President and founder of Siebert Financial Corp., which owns a discount brokerage and investment banking business. A trailblazer for women in finance, she was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and to serve as Superintendent of Banks in the State of New York.
Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) - A teacher who had a former slave as a mother, she made her life’s work to advance the lives of African Americans both socially and financially. She founded and presided over the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, making her the first African American woman to found a bank.
Katharine Graham (1917-2001) - Publisher and owner of The Washington Post, leading it from 1963 to 1991. During her leadership, the paper reported on the Watergate scandal. This also made the first ever female Fortune 500 CEO.
Sarah Breedlove (1867-1919) - Better known as Madam C. J. Walker after the company she founded, this illiterate, impoverished daughter of freed slaves built an empire on beauty products for black women. Known activist and philanthropist, she is considered to be one of the first female self-made millionaires.
Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) - A feminist, leader of the sufragist movement and first woman to ever run for the presidency of the United States. She was also the first woman to start a weekly newspaper and the first woman to own a brokerage firm on Wall Street.
Each of these women, among many others, have done their part to change the world. Now it is up to us.
For all women out there (and all men too) you can share this with everyone.