Entrepreneur and inventor Sarah E. Goode is often credited with being the first African-American woman to receive a United States patent. However, Judy W. Reed, an African American woman received a United States patent on September 23, 1884, at nine months before Goode. Reed received Patent No. 305,474 for her invention, “Dough Kneader and Roller.” There is no record of her life beyond this document.
Sarah E. Goode was born Sarah Elizabeth Jacobs in 1855 in Toledo, Ohio, although she would sometimes say that she was born in Spain. Sarah Goode was the second of seven children of Oliver and Harriet Jacobs, both described in public records as mixed-race.
After receiving her freedom at the end of the Civil War, Goode moved to Chicago and eventually became an entrepreneur. Along with her husband Archibald, a carpenter, she owned a furniture store. Many of her customers, who were mostly working-class, lived in small apartments and didn’t have much space for furniture, including beds. As a solution to the problem, Goode invented a cabinet bed, which she described as a “folding bed.”
On July 14, 1885, Sarah Goode was granted patent number 322,177 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a folding cabinet bed. The bed was designed to make maximum efficient use of small spaces where surface area was limited. Known today as the “hide-away bed,” Goode’s invention had hinged sections that were easily raised or lowered. When not functioning as a bed, the invention could easily be used as a desk because there were small compartments for storing supplies. This was ideal for urban apartments of Chicago where living space was shared and limited.
It is believed that Sarah Goode died in Chicago on April 8, 1905.