Sarah Boone was born Sarah Marshall on January 1, 1832, in Craven County, North Carolina. Marshall grew up in slavery, meaning that she was unable to gain a formal education. By November of 1847, Marshall married James Boone in the town of New Bern. The Boones would go on to have eight children together.
The Boones decided to leave North Carolina and set out for New Haven, Connecticut. They left the south at a perfect time. Shortly after their departure, the American Civil War broke out. After settling in New Haven, Boone became a dressmaker, listing her services in the New Haven directory. Her husband, James, worked as a brick mason.
While attempting to iron the wrinkles out of her dress, Boone thought of a better way to do so. She had been placing a plank of wood across two chairs or tables that stood beside one another. She would then lay her clothing atop the plank of wood and iron her garments. Constructing her makeshift ironing board was taxing, so she set out to make it easier.
Boone created diagrams and prototypes of her ironing board before applying for a patent. In her application for the patent, she wrote that her invention was meant, “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient, and highly effective device particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.”
There were very few Black women who were inventing devices that would help other women maintain the household during the late 1800s. Including Miriam Benjamin, Ellen Eglin, and Sarah Goode, Boone was the fourth woman to develop such technology.
Sarah Marshall Boone received the patent for her ironing board in 1892. Just 12 years later in 1904, Boone died at the age of 62. The device that she created and patented nearly 130 years ago has been used by women and men around the world. It is an invention that has stood the test of time.
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