Elizabeth J. Magie-Phillips - the 'monopoly' maker


Elizabeth J. Phillips ,( May 9, 1866– March 2, 1948), Born in 1866 in Illinois,To a

family that was politically forward-thinking, Lizzie Magie moved as a single woman to the Washington, DC area in the 1880s and served at the Dead Letter Office as a stenographer and typist. In 1893, her first patent was for a "type writing machine" that simply made paper travel more quickly through typewriter rollers. Magie became interested in the anti-monopoly ideas of Henry George, a politician and economist who felt that the tax burden would be transferred to rich landlords by a single "land value tax.".


She was a woman of more than just a smart brain, She pursued her imagination away from work: she acted in theatres, drew, wrote short stories, experimented with engineering and started developing The Game of the Landlord. The patent for the game was filed by Magie in 1903, and she distributed a variant of the game through the Economic Game Corporation in 1905. The game was a hit and miss among audience.Magie’s board also featured the square most popularly associated with Monopoly: GO TO JAIL.


There were two sets of rules in the game. There was an anti-monopoly variant, where when wealth was produced, all were compensated, and a monopoly set in which the goal was to bankrupt other players to win the game. Magie had intended that the game would highlight how ruthless and deeply unfair capitalism was and would inspire players to agitate for change.


Magie secured a patent on her revamped version and a second edition was released in 1932. Such was the success of the game. Charles Darrow was introduced by friends to the game and in 1934, without any approval of Magie, he finally sold the concept to Parker Brothers as Monopoly. The imperialist version was the version which went to market, which made Darrow go from rags-to-riches. Parker Brothers gave Magie $500, with no royalty, for her patent, after Darrow sold Monopoly.


“Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied,” - Elizabeth Magie- Phillips

Magie was dismissive of the role of women in America as well. She took out an ad and offered herself for sale as a 'young woman, American slave' to the highest bidder shortly after she obtained the patent for The Landlord's Game. "She challenged the standards of how women should express themselves and described herself as not glamorous, but had "features full of personality and power, but genuinely feminine.


Elizabeth Magie died in 1948 at the age of 82 and was buried alongside her husband, Albert Phillips, whom she married when she was 44. Her obituary did not list her role in the establishment of Monopoly, nor on her gravestone.


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