Smashing Gender and Race Barriers With Folding Cabinet Beds

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While you may be familiar with the Murphy bed, named after William Lawrence Murphy, you likely haven’t heard of the inventor of the folding cabinet bed. Sarah Elisabeth Goode, born in 1855, was the entrepreneur behind the cabinet bed and set the precedent for what would later become the Murphy bed. This Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Goode, whose innovation helped better people’s lives.   

Goode Was Inspired to Help Those Living in Smaller Spaces

Going back to 1884, Goode invented the folding cabinet bed in an effort to create a better living space for those who inhabited small homes. The space-saving bed folded into a roll top desk, which featured compartments equipped to hold writing supplies and/or stationary, and served a dual purpose as a place to work during the day while serving as a place to rest at night.

Goode’s invention was particularly notable because she was only the second African American woman to ever receive a patent from the United States government when she was granted a patent for the folding cabinet bed on July 14, 1885. Prior to her achievement, the only other patent granted to an African American woman was Judy W. Reed on September 23, 1884, for a dough kneader and roll.

Prior to her becoming an inventor, little is known about Goode’s life. Numerous reports and archives note that Goode had been born into slavery and was named Sarah Jacobs. She ultimately became a free person by 1860 and went on to move from Toledo, Ohio, to Chicago in 1870. As per the University of Chicago’s Library, Goode reportedly then married carpenter/stair builder Archibald Goode and had an unknown number of children. She also owned a successful furniture shop in Chicago, though it’s unclear what happened to the store or if it still exists. She died on April 8, 1905.

Her Legacy as an Inventor Lives On

In the wake of her death, her legacy has been honored in myriad ways. Goode was honored amid the announcement of a 2001 Virginia resolution that designated February 25 as African-American Scientist and Inventor Day. 

“The resolution calls attention to the significant achievements and contributions of African-American scientists, mathematicians, and inventors, many of whom were native sons and daughters of Virginia, and the importance of the special day on which they may be honored. It is imperative that African-American youth and Virginians of all races and ages realize that the fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology are available to everyone,” reads the statement by the Commonwealth of Virginia on the day.

A science- and math-focused high school was also named in her honor — the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy — in 2012. The school, which is part of the Chicago Public Schools Urban Model High School, connects “high school, college and the world of work to prepare students for technology jobs of the future.” 

The Bottom Line 

It’s clear that Goode has left a mark on the world that’s worth celebrating, especially during this Women’s History Month.  The Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy has a goal that punctuates all that Goode stood for. It aims to create “a learning culture that nurtures creativity and sparks imagination, a culture where all feel compelled to develop lenses perceptive enough to see what has yet to be seen, minds powerful enough to create what has yet to be imagined, and hearts strong enough to use these talents for the advancement of humanity.” Hear, hear.

Tags: Groundbreaking Women, Women's History, Women's History Month, KNOWHERNAME

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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