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Irony, thy name is Hasbro.

Gather 'round, chillen, and we'll explain the early Mesozoic when entertainment consisted of rolling dice and moving metal figures around a board game. Oh, yes, kids used to be entertained by such boxes of paper and cardboard and plastic, playing everything from Clue to Mouse Trap to Candy Land.

But the one game most families remember is Monopoly, if only because of the yelling matches that would take place. (Loans from the bank? Reciprocal agreements between players? Has the world gone mad?)

Last week, Hasbro, owner of many popular board games even today, announced a new edition of Monopoly. And this isn't one of those novelty editions you see at the stores, either. This is a new edition called Ms. Monopoly. Here's more from the announcement:

"The Ms. Monopoly game marks the first time in the franchise's history where a new character will grace the cover--and while Mr. Monopoly is a real-estate mogul, Ms. Monopoly is an advocate whose mission is to invest in female entrepreneurs."

Investing in female entrepreneurs? That's a noble cause. We're all for girl power. But Hasbro's introduction to its newest game seems to overlook one major detail on the legacy of the original:

A woman helped create what's now known as Monopoly.

The year was 1903, and a game designer named Lizzie Magie crafted a new board game called The Landlord's Game. The irony gets deeper when you learn that Lizzie Magie was an anti-monopolist. She was a Georgist, who invented the game to show the horrors of life under a monopolistic economy. But the game was popular, especially among college kids, so she took out a patent in 1904 and self-published the game in 1906.

Over the next couple decades, several variants of board games based on her design came along. She patented the game again in 1923. The sad part of the story begins in 1932 when a man named Charles Todd had his childhood friend Esther Jones and her husband Charles Darrow over for dinner. The Todds brought out a copy of The Landlord's Game, and Mr. Darrow enjoyed it so much, he asked for a written copy of the rules.

The story goes that Mr. Darrow used the materials and started marketing the game as Monopoly. It sold well during the Christmas season of 1934, and now-defunct Parker Brothers took notice. The company bought the rights to Monopoly, and upon learning that Mr. Darrow was not the sole creator, decided to purchase Lizzie Magie's patent for a scant $500.

Monopoly would go on to become one of the most popular board games of all time, making Mr. Darrow the first millionaire game designer. As for Lizzie Magie, she spoke out against Mr. Darrow, who claimed he invented the game in his basement. She never received official credit for the game.

We went through the news release announcing the new edition from Hasbro, and funny enough, Lizzie Magie's name isn't in there. But this cheeky line was: "Ms. Monopoly is also the first-ever game where women make more than men--a fun spin in the game that creates a world where women have an advantage often enjoyed by men. However, if men play their cards right, they can make more money, too."

Lizzie Magie initially invented The Landlord's Game to explain the single tax theory of political economist Henry George. The point of the game was to note the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies. There's a great episode of Adam Ruins Everything about Monopoly that goes into more detail about the game's history that's worth checking out.

But to some of us, real feminism might be better defined as being a game designer in the early 1900s (before women could vote), then speaking out when you aren't credited for helping to create one of the most popular board games of all time. Which Lizzie Magie did, bless her outspoken feminist revolutionary heart.

After recently watching the movie Ready or Not, we're hopeful Parker Brothers doesn't have a similar setup to keep its family wealthy with board games. As for Hasbro, if you want to celebrate female investors and business heroes, maybe slap Lizzie Magie's name somewhere on the box. That'd be a real reason to celebrate.

Editorial on 09/16/2019

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