news 1 week ago

Ms. Monopoly is here. Psst: A woman invented the game in the first place

Los Angeles Times — Nardine Saad Los Angeles Times

Sept. 10--Move over, Mr. Monopoly. There's a new entrepreneur in town, and she's taking over the boardroom, er, board game.

Toymaker Hasbro Inc. on Tuesday announced the launch of Ms. Monopoly, a modernized reboot of its iconic money-making board game meant to celebrate female trailblazers and create a world where women make more money than men. It also brings to mind a little-known fact about Monopoly, though Hasbro didn't mention it: A woman invented the game more than a century ago.

There's a new mascot on the game's cover, too: the brunet Ms. Monopoly, niece of the dapper, top-hat-wearing Mr. Monopoly (also known as Rich Uncle Pennybags). Alas, she does not sport a monocle, but she does wear some pretty mean M-shaped earrings.

"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, " Hasbro said in a statement.

The capitalism game features a new look but similar classic game play. Spots on the board such as railroads and the electric company are replaced with ride-hailing services and Wi-Fi, and properties such as the coveted Park Place make way for groundbreaking inventions and innovations created by women throughout history, including chocolate chip cookies, solar heating and modern shapewear.

Instead of building houses and hotels, players build business headquarters. The game pieces include a hard hat, wristwatch, book, jet, goblet and free weight.

"Ms. Monopoly celebrates everything from scientific advancements to everyday accessories--all created by women, " Hasbro said.

A slogan on the box bills it as "the first game where women make more than men, " flipping the real world's gender pay disparity. In 2018, women earned 85 % of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of full-and part-time workers in the United States. And companies founded only by women received just 2.3 % of venture capital funding in the U.S. last year, according to PitchBook--though it is trending upward.

In the game, the banker doles out $1, 900 of Monopoly money to each female player at the beginning, while each male player starts with $1, 500, according to USA Today. After that, female players collect $240 when they pass "Go, " whereas their male counterparts collect the traditional $200.

The Monopoly game was the brainchild of a woman named Lizzie Magie at the turn of the 20th century.

According to the 2015 book "The Monopolists, " which chronicled the storied history of the iconic American game, Magie was an ardent feminist stuck in a low-wage stenography job. She created what she called the Landlord's Game to propagate the ideas of Henry George, a 19th century proponent of "single tax theory, " who believed that land ownership was the only thing that should be taxed.

Her game shared many features with Monopoly as we know it, including play money, properties that could be bought and sold, and a "Go to Jail " directive (all of which also exist in Ms. Monopoly). When Magie received a patent for her Landlord's Game in 1904, "less than 1 % of all patents issued in the United States went to women, " according to "The Monopolists."

Decades later, unemployed salesman Charles Darrow learned the game from friends, repackaged it and, in 1935, sold it as his own creation.

Hasbro made no mention of Magie in its Tuesday news release and did little to explain her omission when pressed by the Los Angeles Times.

"The Monopoly game as we know it was invented by Charles Darrow, who sold his idea to Parker Brothers in 1935, " a Hasbro spokeswoman told The Times on Tuesday. "However, there have been a number of popular property-trading games throughout history. 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."

Meanwhile, to celebrate next month's launch of Ms. Monopoly and spotlight other women who have challenged the status quo, Hasbro said it surprised several young female inventors and entrepreneurs with the game and approximately $20, 580 in real money "to fuel their inventive spirit and further their projects." A trio of teenage girls was featured in a video vignette announcing Ms. Monopoly's launch.

Ms. Monopoly is the latest revamp of the treasured board game, which has seen thousands of spinoffs and themed reboots since its official debut in the Depression era. (In what was considered a major overhaul in 2017, the game did away with the scorned thimble, wheelbarrow and boot tokens and replaced them with a T-Rex, rubber duck and penguin.)

The new game is available for pre-order now at Walmart and will be available at most major retailers nationwide and in select countries globally starting later this month for a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro suffered a blow when Toys R Us stores shut down last year, but the business has since regained momentum. Last month it struck a deal to buy Entertainment One Ltd., the owner of popular animated series "Peppa Pig, " for $4 billion. The toymaker's stock is up more than 43 % this year.

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