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March 06, 2012

Women's History Month: Great Women in Automotive History

WomensautohistoryMarch, in case you didn't know, is Women's History Month, and here at Ask Patty we think that's just dandy. For those of you who may not know, here's the scoop: Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when the week beginning March 7, 1982 was deemed “Women’s History Week."  Throughout the next five years, Congress continued designating one week in March as Women's History Week, until 1987 when the entire month of March was set aside and deemed Women's History Month, and since then each president has proclaimed the same every year.  

So, in celebration of female history nationwide, we're going to take a look at some of the highlights of women's automotive history.  Head past the jump, and get your learnin' on!

●  In 1902 Mary Anderson invented the first windshield wiper after riding a New York City Street car.  Before that, people smeared a mixture of onions and carrots on windshields to repel water.   Leave it to a women to point out the obvious!

● On June 6, 1909  Mrs. Alice H. Ramsey was 22 years old when she boarded a 30 HP Maxwell and began a 3,800 mile trip from New York to San Francisco, making her the first woman in history to cross the United States in an automobile.  Her husband, a New Jersey congressman, never learned to drive.

●Actress Florence Lawrence invented the first turn signal or “auto signaling arm” which attached  to the car’s rear fender. 

● In 1916 Alice Burke and Nell Richardson traveled for seven months and 10,700 miles carrying the women’s suffrage and right to vote message and demonstrating women’s equality at the wheel.

● In 1915 Wilma Russey became the first woman to work as a taxi driver in New York and was an expert garage mechanic. 

● 1916 The Girl Scouts initiated a “Automobling Badge” for which girls had to demonstrate driving skill, auto mechanics, and first aid skills. 

● Helene Rother (1908-1999) was a French designer of jewelry and fashion accessories who fled Nazi-occupied France with her seven-year-old daughter Ina in 1942. She was the first woman to work as an automotive designer when she joined the interior styling staff of General Motors in Detroit in 1943. Four years later she opened her own design studio in the Fisher Building, where she specialized in designs for automotive interiors, furniture and stained glass windows.

Get more women's automotive history here, courtesy of the AACA Museum.

Kaeli Gardner



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