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Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Sarah Boone – An Improver Not Just an Innovator (Contest)
Monday, September 25th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Mary Preston!

Sarah Marshall was born into slavery in 1832. She married James Boone in New Bern, North Carolina, when she was fifteen. Sources are unclear how they obtained their freedom, but they were able to relocate to New Haven, Connecticut before the start of the Civil War. There, they raised eight children. She worked as a dressmaker. He laid brick until his death in the 1870s.

In her work, she saw the need for an ironing board that would aid in her care and maintenance of women’s dresses. Before the invention of the ironing board, women simply ironed clothes either on a board laid across the backs of two chairs or a table. At the age of 60, dressmaker Sarah Boone’s invention was created “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.”

While she did not create the ironing board, her device improved upon it by adding a padded surface and a smaller rounded end. It was also collapsible, so you can see how her improvements led to the ironing board in use today. The wording of the patent indicates that the invention had the potential to be adapted for men’s clothing. She received her patent in 1892 making her the second African-American woman to receive a patent.

She lived in New Haven not far from Yale University for the rest of her life and attended the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church. She died in 1904 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. This PBS station did a very nice piece on her. You can view it here:

A slave at fifteen. A patent holder at sixty. When you hear people harping on age being detrimental instead of an asset, tell them about Sarah Marshall Boone.

For a $10 chance at an Amazon gift card share your thoughts on Sarah’s life or ageism.

Better To Marry Than to Burn

Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.


“Our children?” She swiveled in her seat. “You made no mention of wanting children, just marital relations as necessary. I understood that to mean intercourse.”

“I wrote I wanted to leave a legacy.”

“A legacy. Not a dynasty.”

“Legacy. Dynasty. Is there really so sharp a distinction?”

“To my mind there is. I understood you meant to affect future generations—endow schools, found churches, create civic associations. I didn’t realize that meant children. I agreed to having sex, not having children.”

 “Of course I want children.” His brows grew heavy as he frowned. “Doesn’t having sex lead to having children?”

“Not with the right precautions.”

His frown deepened. “Precautions?”

“There are many ways to prevent your seed from taking root, Mr. King.”

“I want children, Mrs. King.”

Her lips twisted and her brow furrowed, but she kept her silence.

“All right,” she said. “You can have children with any woman you like. I won’t stop you. I free you from any claim to fidelity.”

“Legacy—or dynasty if you will—means legitimacy. No bastard will carry my name, not when I have a wife to bear me children.”

“I see.”

Her tone signaled she didn’t.

Buy link:

23 comments to “Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Sarah Boone – An Improver Not Just an Innovator (Contest)”

  1. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 25th, 2023 at 6:27 am · Link

    As always, Delilah, thanks for letting my share my love of Black women’s history on your blog.

  2. Jennifer Beyer
    · September 25th, 2023 at 7:12 am · Link

    I love that story. While my ironing board can be the bane of my existence, the changes she made really do make it better. I wish we had learned about this in school.

  3. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 25th, 2023 at 8:38 am · Link

    So true Jennifer. Her story makes me look at lots of things I use on a daily basis and wonder whose story I haven’t been told. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Barbara Bettis
    · September 25th, 2023 at 1:52 pm · Link

    Love Sarah’s story! What courage and determination. And what an ingenious idea–I had no idea that part of the ironing board wasn’t original with the initial invention. I remember being a college freshman and ironing in my dorm on my bed and my desk–before Mom got me a small, portable board. (We had ironing boards in the dorm laundry room, but that was so far away!) Thank you for spotlighting yet another such remarkable woman.

  5. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 25th, 2023 at 3:25 pm · Link

    My pleasure, Barbara. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Mary Preston
    · September 25th, 2023 at 5:38 pm · Link

    Very inventive. I am always impressed by those who see a need and create.

  7. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 25th, 2023 at 6:36 pm · Link

    Her improvements impressed me, too. They were very practical and inventive enough to award her a patent. Thanks for commenting, Mary.

  8. Diane Sallans
    · September 25th, 2023 at 6:42 pm · Link

    The best inventions are created out a need for something useful – I’m glad Sarah got out of slavery and sounds like she had a good life.

  9. BN
    · September 25th, 2023 at 11:53 pm · Link

    useful inventions

  10. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 26th, 2023 at 6:25 am · Link

    So true, Diane. More success stories like hers need to shared. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 26th, 2023 at 6:30 am · Link

    Very useful, BN. I used to work in a law office that specialized in filing patents so I marvel at a former slave who navigated the system and obtained one. Thanks for commenting.

  12. Sara D
    · September 26th, 2023 at 11:39 pm · Link

    Love reading of women or men who show that age does not mean they no longer have anything to contribute. And to improve on something to make it better because Sarah Boone used it for her work and knew what would be better is perfect. Not surprising that a former slave could rise above because as slaves most were not given the chance to improve.

  13. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 27th, 2023 at 12:05 am · Link

    So true Sara D. Society puts people in boxes where they underestimate and limit them. Stories like Sarah’s are so heartening. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Mary McCoy
    · September 28th, 2023 at 8:43 pm · Link

    Sarah would not let herself be defined by her circumstances or age… she made her own best self and life.

  15. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 28th, 2023 at 9:08 pm · Link

    An inspiration for us to do likewise, Mary. Thanks for commenting.

  16. flchen
    · September 28th, 2023 at 11:52 pm · Link

    Thank you for continuing to bring women like Sarah out of the shadows for us, Anna–it’s inspiring to see how she overcame such a difficult past to use her skills and talents to solve problems and make lives better, including her own. And it’s also a reminder that we can keep doing that.

  17. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · September 29th, 2023 at 9:41 am · Link

    Amen, flchen. Thanks for commenting.

  18. miki
    · October 1st, 2023 at 10:15 am · Link

    She did not hesitate to try to make her life better, easier, she was still hoping and dreaming wile older so she really is an inspiration

  19. ButtonsMom
    · October 1st, 2023 at 11:43 am · Link

    I love reading your posts and Delilah’s blog. They are always informational and educational so thank you!

  20. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · October 1st, 2023 at 1:15 pm · Link

    Glad to be of service. Buttonsmom

  21. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · October 1st, 2023 at 1:16 pm · Link

    I agree, Miki. Especially now I’m up in age. Thanks for commenting.

  22. Delilah
    · October 7th, 2023 at 7:34 am · Link

    Thanks to everyone who dropped by to comment! And thank you, again, to Anna for another enlightening post!

    The winner of the GC is…Mary Preston!

  23. Mary Preston
    · October 7th, 2023 at 4:36 pm · Link


Comments are closed.