Sarah Boone (1832-1904)

Sarah Boone's Ironing Board patent
Public domain image

ENTRY SPONSOR: Quintard Taylor

Sarah Boone was an American inventor best known for her patented improvements to the ironing board. She was one of the first African American women to receive a patent in United States history.

Boone’s legacy was her improved ironing board. The ironing board had first been patented in 1858 and circulated into common usage in the times that followed. Boone’s improvement was patented on April 26, 1892, as U.S. Patent 473,653.

The patent described the new invention as “particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.” It accomplished this by taking the previously rigid design of the board and curving the edges slightly, to account for the seams inlaid in most women’s clothing at the time. It was sized to that of the typical sleeve of contemporary clothes. The text of the patent hints at a possible variation that would be better suited for men’s clothing. The board also used a support system to flip the garment to its other side, enabling the user to iron both sides of a sleeve. This meant that the ironing of one side would not be undone by the ironing of the other side.

Boone was born enslaved in Craven County, North Carolina in 1832, as Sarah Marshall. She married James Boone in 1847, with whom she had eight children. Shortly after the marriage, the couple were freed under unknown circumstances and moved to New Haven, Connecticut where Sarah Boone worked as a dressmaker, and her husband as a bricklayer. Sarah Boone died in New Haven in 1904.

Boone was among the first black women in American history to receive a patent. Her patent, confirmed in 1892, came just eight years after that of Judy Reed, who is believed to be the first African American woman to receive a patent.