There's Now a "Ms. Monopoly," but What About the Real One?

Hasbro has announced a new version of "Monopoly," “Ms. Monopoly”, meant to celebrate female inventors.

Since 1935, nearly 1,000 different versions of "Monopoly" have been created. Yet, this new version features a new character, Ms. Monopoly, the niece of Mr. Monopoly and apparently “a self-made investment guru". The game uses the tagline, “The first game where women make more than men” referring to the fact that women collect $240 upon passing GO as opposed to the $200 collected by men. While some dislike this pay inequality, the new game is being pitched by Hasbro as a way to teach young women that they are equal to men in business and STEM fields while also highlighting the wage gap. In addition to these changes, other aspects of the classic "Monopoly" board have been changed like replacing railroads with ride shares.While plenty of people are celebrating the new version, others are critical since credit has not been given to Elizabeth Magie, a feminist whose role was crucial in developing "Monopoly." Mary Pilon, a former reporter for The New York Times and the author of “The Monopolists” said, “I think if Hasbro was serious about women’s empowerment, they could start by admitting that a woman invented the game." While the invention of "Monopoly" is usually associated with Charles Darrow, Ms. Pilon and others argue that Magie should be accredited. In 1904, Magie, perhaps the true Ms. Monopoly, received a patent for "The Landlord’s Game," a game she invented where players roll dice to move along a square board of 40 spaces. The players would purchase property along the way, a corner square instructed players to “go to jail,” and a trip around the board earns players $100. Yet, the purpose of Magie’s invention was political. Her ideas were influenced by Henry George, a progressive who argued for a single land tax to stop the wealthy from monopolizing resources and her game was intended to make the case for reform. Eventually, Charles Darrow was introduced to the game and developed "Monopoly," making slight tweaks and marketed it locally. Since the game became more popular, the Parker Brothers purchased it in 1935. The company then worked to neutralize any threats by getting a patent on "Monopoly" and suing the creators of similar board games. To neutralize the threat of the "Landlord’s Game," George Parker, the founder of the company, convinced Magie to sell the patent for the game for $500 and a promise to publish it and two other games she would design. However, none of the games took off, and when Magie died in 1948, her obituary had no mention of her crucial role in the creation of "Monopoly."

Similarly, in the new version of the board game meant to empower female inventors, Magie, the real Ms. Monopoly, is acknowledged only briefly inside the box.  The statement says, “there have been a number of popular property trading games throughout history. In fact, Elizabeth Magie — a writer, inventor, and feminist — was one of the pioneers of land-grabbing games. In 1904, she received a patent for the "Landlord’s Game," which was meant to educate people about the dangers of wealth concentration”. It is truly ironic that the video posted by Hasbro on Twitter promoting the new game "Monopoly" begins by stating “women hold just 10% of all patented inventions,” considering that the fact that Darrow got all the credit and the profit for Magie's invention. Clearly, acknowledging Magie is better than ignoring her completely but one has to wonder how a game meant to empower female inventors does not give Magie credit for her own invention.