Sarah Boone was born Sarah Marshall in 1832 in Craven County, North Carolina. At 15, she married James Boone. She worked as a dressmaker and her husband was a brick mason. Sarah Boone made her name by inventing the ironing board. Boone was a rarity during her time, a female African-American inventor. In her patent application, she wrote 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.”
Sarah Boone’s patent, filed July 23, 1891, was not the first for an ironing board. Her patent was an improvement to the ironing board (U.S. Patent #473,653). Ironing was done with irons heated on the stove or fire, using a table that was covered with a thick cloth. Often women would simply use the kitchen table, or prop a board on two chairs. Ironing would usually be done in the kitchen where the irons could be heated on the stove. Sarah Boone’s ironing board was designed to be effective in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments. It was very narrow and curved, the size and fit of a sleeve common in ladies’ garments of that period. It was reversible, making it easy to iron both sides of a sleeve. She noted that the board could also be produced flat rather than curved, which might be better for the cut of the sleeves of men’s’ coats. She noted that her ironing board would also be well-suited for ironing curved waist seams.