The family settled into a Black neighborhood near Dixwell Avenue, where Boone worked as a dressmaker and her husband as a bricklayer, until his death in the mid-1870s. According to records, Boone was successful enough to own her own home.
Sarah Boone was determined to succeed in spite of societal hurdles.
Coming from the south where it was illegal to teach Black folks to read and write, Boone took steps to overcome that systemic racism in her late 1940s, possibly through her membership at the Dixwell Congregational Church.
In her 1891 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.”
According to Connecticut History, when Sarah Boone was awarded U.S. Patent No. 473,653 on April 26, 1892, she became only the fourth known Black woman in the United States to hold a patent. On September 23, 1884, Judy W. Reed of Washington, D.C. became the first Black woman awarded a patent for her dough kneader and roller. Reed was followed by Sarah E. Goode of Ohio, who received a patent for a folding cabinet bed in 1885, and Miriam E. Benjamin of South Carolina, who received a patent for a gong and signal chair in 1888.
To that point, dressmakers were primarily ironing their clothes on a wooden plank placed across two chairs, a method that was fine for a wide skirt but ill-suited for the contours of tight, fitted material. Boone’s solution was to create a narrower, curved board that could slip into sleeves and allow for a garment to be shifted without getting wrinkled. Her creation also was padded, to eliminate the impressions produced by a wooden board, and collapsible for easy storage.
According to Thought Co., Boone’s board was 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.
Boone died of Bright’s disease on October 29, 1904, and was buried alongside her mother and husband in New Haven’s Evergreen Cemetery. Although there is little evidence that she benefitted from the commercialization of her invention, Boone’s ironing board is recognized as the prototype for what became an irreplaceable household item.