Skip to main content

The Woman Who Invented Monopoly (Sort of)

Daniel Hautzinger
The Landlord's Game
Lizzie Magie's The Landlord's Game was a teaching tool for anti-land ownership ideas. Image: Courtesy Tom Forsyth

American Experience—Ruthless: The Secret History of Monopoly premieres Monday, February 20 at 9:00 pm and will be available to stream

The history of the board game Monopoly is much more complicated and shady than you might imagine for one of America's most popular board games. The new American Experience documentary Ruthless: The Secret History of Monopoly examines that history, including the biography of the unique woman who invented a predecessor of Monopoly. 

Lizzie Magie was born in Macomb, Illinois and moved to Chicago in 1906, the same year she self-published The Landlord's Game, which was inspired by the anti-land ownership ideas of the reformer Henry George. The Landlord's Game was meant as a teaching tool on behalf of George's proposed single tax on land, but it also bore a strong resemblance to Monopoly. She was also a writer, an activist, a feminist, and an inventor, at a time when women were restricted from doing much of anything in the public sphere. Learn more about the fascinating Magie in the excerpt from Ruthless below.