The Clara Barton Museum Blog

Sarah E. Goode

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Today, on National Technology Day and Women’s History Wednesday, we’re thinking of Sarah E. Goode.

Sarah Goode is believed to be the first African American woman to receive a United States patent.[1] In 1885, approximately twenty years after Clara Barton stopped working for the United States Patent Office, Mrs. Goode applied for a patent for a folding bed. The folding bed, a precursor to modern Murphy beds, collapsed into a functional roll top desk when it wasn’t it unfolded—making it perfect for the residents of Chicago where Goode and her husband had a furniture store.


Goode’s invention could have been inspired by folding trunk beds used for camping and travel. Clara Barton herself had a trunk bed (also known as a “camp bed”) that she most likely took with her to the front during the Civil War. Today, that trunk bed is on display at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Closed the bed takes the form of a traditional trunk. When it is unfolded, it forms a single bed: completed by a small inflatable mattress and mosquito netting.


Little is known of Mrs. Goode’s life. Some believe, she was born into slavery and gained her freedom at the end of the Civil War. Others believe she was born free. She grew up in Ohio. According to Census records, her father was a carpenter. By 1870, she and her parents had moved to Chicago. By 1880, she had married Archibald Goode. She and Archibald opened a furniture store, where they would eventually sell the folding beds she had invented. Sarah Goode passed away in 1905 … yet another example of how 19th century women kick butt.

Tell us, who are your favorite female inventors?





[1] Judy Reed, who invented a dough-kneading machine, and Miriam Benjamin, invented a hotel chair that signaled the service of a waiter, are the two other African American who are credited as the first to receive a US patent. The first woman to receive a United States patent was Mary Dixon Kies who invented a new thread to make hats.

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