Updated: Mar 24
Theft can look like many things: a nameless hacker stealing your personal information, a pickpocket nabbing your wallet, or even just a guy with a notepad copying your intellectual property.
Throughout history, women often depended on the men around them for social status and respect, which made them easy targets for co-opting or taking credit for their ideas.
It is time to give credit where credit is due. Here are three remarkable women to recognize this Women's History Month.
Margaret Keane is now known and celebrated for her famous "Big Eyes" paintings of women, children, and animals with very stylistically large eyes. However, the credit due her was long in coming.
Keane’s husband, Walter, claimed the pieces as his own and began selling them in the 1950s. As more and more paintings were sold, he began mass-producing the paintings and merchandise and forced his wife to create more and more. The "Keane Eyes" grew in popularity. So did his abuse of her and her and her daughter (from a previous marriage).
Keane finally filed for divorce and walked away from the millions of dollars her ex-husband earned in her name. It wasn't until five years later that she revealed that the paintings were indeed her handiwork.
Her story hit the big screen in 2014 in a film called, “Big Eyes," directed by Tim Burton and starring Amy Adams as the artist. Keane passed peacefully in July 2022 and her memory lives on through her work.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
When you think of “pop music,” you think of Michael Jackson. When you think “gravity,” you think of Issac Newton. When we think “rock and roll,” we ought to think of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Dubbed The Godmother of Rock and Roll, she pioneered the genre. Tharpe's performances, even down to her cadence and enrapturing stage presence, are the hallmarks of rock and roll, though few even within that music genre know of her influence.
Seeing a black woman in her church dress work the stage with such a huge personality and her ability to play the guitar with such talent and skill was unheard of at the time. Even today, it's not the first image that comes to mind when thinking about rock and roll. She enchanted audiences all throughout the 40s and 50s and inspired the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and many others.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe had an exuberant spirit and played the guitar with her soul. Sadly, she was buried in an unmarked grave with her legacy all but forgotten, while others borrowed from her and made their millions. She was finally recognized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
Families have enjoyed the beloved game of Monopoly all across the US since its patent in 1935. People played the game to alleviate stress and to distract them from the extreme poverty of the Great Depression.
Charles Darrow, credited as its creator, lifted himself up from his bootstraps, sold the idea, and made millions. It is a perfect tale of American grit, an embodiment of the American Dream.
In reality, the game was created as early as 1902 and patented in 1904 as "The Landlord Game" by a woman named Elizabeth Magie, who created it to criticize capitalism.
The idea was stolen by a man named Charles Darrow who went off to make millions. Ironically, Magie's concept was turned on its head as the player's goal is to become rich while forcing opponents into bankruptcy by buying and developing pieces of property. The winner is the last one standing. Today the game is owned by Hasbro.
Elizabeth had multiple patents, wrote poetry, and made great strides for women as a progressive, but she was never recognized for her most well-known creation.
These are three examples of the many remarkable women who have contributed significantly to the entertainment industry throughout history. And, many more stories like these have yet to be told.
Campbell, Tori. “Stealing Art: When Men Took Credit for Women's Work.” Artland Magazine, 3 Aug. 2022, https://magazine.artland.com/stealing-art-when-men-took-credit-for-womens-work/.
Karwatka, Dennis. “Elizabeth Magie and the Game of Monopoly.” Tech Directions, Nov. 2016, pp. 10–10.
Lorusso, Marissa. “How One of Music's Biggest Stars Almost Disappeared, and How Her Legacy Was Saved.” NPR, NPR, 27 Sept. 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/09/27/759601364/how-one-of-musics-biggest-stars-almost-disappeared-and-how-her-legacy-was-saved.
Pilon, Mary. “Monopoly's Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn't Pass 'Go' by NYtimes.” Nytimes.com, Admin Https://Www.hgsss.org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2019/04/HGS-New-Logo_2019_siteheader-300x77.Png, 23 Nov. 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/business/behind-monopoly-an-inventor-who-didnt-pass-go.html?emc=eta1&_r=0.
WALD, GAYLE F. “Cotton Plant.” Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock -and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, BEACON, S.l., 2023, pp. 1–3.