March is the Women’s History Month celebrated globally to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The month corresponds with the International Women’s Day which is marked globally on March 8.
As part of Face2Face Africa’s commitment to informing and connecting black people around the world, we have resolved to devote each day of the month of March to celebrate black women inventors and to highlight their inventions.
Dressmaker Sarah Boone made her name by inventing an improvement to the ironing board in 1892 that would make it easier to press sleeves without introducing unwanted creases. In her patent application, she wrote as quoted by biography.com that the purpose of her invention was “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.”
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Boone’s board was very narrow and curved, and this was the right size and fit of a sleeve common in ladies’ clothes during that period. It was reversible and hence made it easier to iron both sides of a sleeve. The African-American woman noted at the time that her board could also be produced flat rather than curved, which is ideal for the cut of the sleeves of men’s’ coats.
Before Boone’s ironing board, ironing was done with irons heated on the stove or fire, using a table that was covered with a thick cloth. Others simply made use of the kitchen table, or prop a board on two chairs.
Born in 1832 in Craven County, North Carolina, Sarah Boone married a brick mason, James Boone when she was 15. They had eight children. She lived in New Haven for the rest of her life before passing away in 1904. Boone received a patent for her invention in 1892. Her ironing board has since made it easy for people to press sleeves.