The first American woman of African heritage to receive a patent from the U.S Patent and Trademark Office.
Sarah Elisabeth Goode
Sarah E. Goode was an entrepreneur and inventor. She was the very first American woman of African heritage to receive a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office 1885 (Patent #322,17). Although there is still a debate over who is the first recipient of the patent number, some say it was Judy Reed in 1884 who patented a dough kneading machine. However, Reed only signed her patent with her mark (x) and not her signature. We should celebrate and honor both of their accomplishments, but for this blog post, I am writing about Mrs. Goode. I am integrated by the woman to the left of this screen who most would consider white but is labeled as black. The one-drop rule stated that if you had any black in you, then you were 100% black. There are some public figures during the time of slavery who were mixed with white but were still slaves and therefore considered black. Booker T. Washington is one example. With her accomplishments, she has opened the door for many black women to come after her for patents and inventions.
In 1856, Sarah Jacob was born in Toledo, Ohio as a slave, but gained freedom at the end of the Civil War. She was the second child of seven children to Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and Harriet Jacobs. Upon emancipation, she migrated to Chicago, Illinois. She met her future husband in the Windy City, Archibald Goode, who was a native of Virginia. The two married in 1880. That same year, the couple saved to purchase, own, and operate a furniture store.
As the owner of a furniture store, she noted that city apartment dwellers often had little space for beds, and her customers would often complain that they had no room for furniture or storage spaces. To solve the problem, she created a prototype of the Folding Cabinet Bed that would be used to sleep at night and as a roll-top desk during the day. She conceived the design of what we know today as the “hideaway” bed. She described the plan as “a folding bed” whose hinged sections easily raised or lowered. When not in use as a bed, Goode’s invention could be a desk. Goode received her patent in July of 1885. One could guess that Sarah got her knowledge of carpentry and entrepreneurship experience from watching her father and also her husband, who were both carpenters.
A similar style of bed was patented more than thirty years later in 1916 as the Murphy bed, which is a bed that folds out of a wall or cabinet to provide you with extra space in your bedroom.
Goode’s name appears in the Cook County, Illinois US Census for 1880, when she was living with her husband Archibald, her daughter, and several boarders. According to these records, she couple had six children, of whom three would live to adulthood. Her age is listed as 24, giving her a birth date of around 1856. She is listed as Mulatto, as is her daughter, but her husband, Archibald is listed as White.
Photo Credit: Innov8tiv