Throughout the month of February, LumAware is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting African-Americans that made their mark in US History. This week, we are featuring the life of Sarah Boone, a dressmaker who invented the precursor to the modern ironing board. 

The next time you iron your clothes, thank Sarah Boone, the inventor of an improved ironing board.

Boone was born in Craven County, North Carolina on January 1, 1832 to enslaved parents. At some point, she earned her freedom. Some sources say it was through her marriage with James Boone, a free African American, with whom she had eight children. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Boone migrated along with her husband, children, and widowed mother to New Haven, Connecticut.

She worked as a dressmaker and her husband as a bricklayer. She became a member of the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church.

Dressmaking is a competitive industry even then. Boone specialized in making tailor-made corsets that were popular at that time. With delicate garments, ironing tends to be a difficult task. Dressmakers used a wooden plank placed across two chairs to iron clothes, which is not suited for tight-fitting materials. 

Boone filed the patent for an improved ironing board in 1891. Her invention was a narrower, curved board that could slip through sleeves and allowed the shifting of garments without wrinkling them. She also added padding that eliminated any impression from the board and made it collapsible for easy storage.

Boone didn’t gain any financial benefit from her invention, but it became the prototype of the modern ironing board we have today. She died of Bright’s disease on October 29, 1904

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