Women at the Wheel



October 16, 2012

At the turn of the century, a woman’s place was in the home. But the automobile helped change that by setting women on the road toward greater freedom and work opportunity. Check out this timeline of automotive history highlights, design and technological firsts, that put American women in the driver’s seat.

1902 — Mary Anderson invented the first windshield wiper.

Mary Anderson

1906 — While both companies pioneered early marketing efforts geared toward women drivers, Baker Motor Vehicle Company eclipsed Detroit Electric as the largest electric vehicle maker in the world.

Alice Ramsey

1909 — In part to prove a woman’s competence behind the wheel, 22-year-old Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the United States.

1912 — With the invention of the self-starter, Charles Kettering finally made obsolete the biggest deterrent keeping women from driving — the arm-busting crank start.

Girl Scouts

1916 — The Girl Scouts initiated an “Automobiling Badge” for girls demonstrating driving skill, auto mechanics and first-aid skills.

1922 — Henry Ford opened Phoenix Mill and began hiring widows and single women, promising to pay women the same as men “so they could dress attractively and get married.”

1935 — William Stout invented a “mobile office” vehicle he calls the Scarab. Believed to be “too radical and modern for its time,” only nine Scarabs — what many contend is the first true “minivan”— were ever produced.

1943Helene Rother joined the interior styling staff of General Motors and became the first woman to work as an automotive designer.

1954 — Nash introduced the Metropolitan, a “commuter/shopping car” and the first American car marketed specifically to women.

Dodge LaFemme

1955 — Dodge introduced the La Femme, a pink, two-door coupe for women, featuring a matching calf-skin purse complete with coordinated accessories including a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter and change purse.

1964 — While Ford would later reposition the vehicle as a muscle-car, Ford’s release of the Mustang began with a large marketing effort aimed at women.

1984 — After GM’s failed attempt to capture the “minivan market” in 1960 with the Corvair Greenbrier, Chrysler finally became America’s leading minivan maker with its release of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.

1995 — During an election for Denver city council, Susan B. Casey ran with the slogan "A Soccer Mom for City Council." The term “soccer mom” (referring to married, middle-class, suburban mothers who drive minivans or SUVs) became part of the American lexicon and a powerful voting block courted by politicians.

 

Comments

  1. dave beach sherwood, oregon

    nice start to what might bring more additions by other readers??? Hopefully...

  2. Tracy New Jersey

    Bertha Benz and her historic drive in the first automobile should be included!

  3. Mike California

    Isn't Bertha Benz universally known for taking the first road trip EVER in a automobile with her two sons in an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen? Doesn't the story really begin there?

  4. Daniel I too am surprised at the way our pisefosron has morphed over the years. It shocks me that the larger part of society, who are making decisions for us all, believe that social work is done at a bare minimum of reimbursement. Is it because people believe that charity work is done by volunteers? Or is it because we are a female dominated industry? Or is it because we do not advocate to the people who make decisions about funding to social work communities that social workers deserve a living wage? I was shocked when working at Hope House as a Bilingual Court Advocate when I walked into a Quick Trip that was hiring for a part time manager. The pay scale they posted was much higher than the one that I was making in serving victims of domestic violence. Dumbfounded might be a better use of vocabulary when describing my emotions.Do we spend so much time advocating for others that we forget about advocating for ourselves and our pisefosrons? And how do we retain qualified people to do direct service work when they cannot afford to live on the wage that is so low? The teaching pisefosron is no different. Teachers work for so little, that they can barely afford to live with out a supplemental income, like one from a significant other. And who ultimately suffers? Our clients, our children, our communities and our future. In order to retain a more diverse social service work population, we must be able not only to recruit them, but to pay them. We must be able to provide benefits to them. This must be a priority as we move into an era of great need with our soldiers returning home from war, our baby boomers moving into the final stages of life and the ever growing population of victims of violent crime, we must arm ourselves for work in the trenches. We must insist to policy makers that funding must increase along with the need of services. So many agencies today are so stretched. Many people working 2-3 three positions for the pay of one position. We are in a crisis and we need to come together as social workers to ensure that care is given to those in need that does not create harm or further barriers.

    I too am surprised at the way our pisefosron has morphed over the years. It shocks me that the larger part of society, who are making decisions for us all, believe that social work is done at a bare minimum of reimbursement. Is it because people believe that charity work is done by volunteers? Or is it because we are a female dominated industry? Or is it because we do not advocate to the people who make decisions about funding to social work communities that social workers deserve a living wage? I was shocked when working at Hope House as a Bilingual Court Advocate when I walked into a Quick Trip that was hiring for a part time manager. The pay scale they posted was much higher than the one that I was making in serving victims of domestic violence. Dumbfounded might be a better use of vocabulary when describing my emotions.Do we spend so much time advocating for others that we forget about advocating for ourselves and our pisefosrons? And how do we retain qualified people to do direct service work when they cannot afford to live on the wage that is so low? The teaching pisefosron is no different. Teachers work for so little, that they can barely afford to live with out a supplemental income, like one from a significant other. And who ultimately suffers? Our clients, our children, our communities and our future. In order to retain a more diverse social service work population, we must be able not only to recruit them, but to pay them. We must be able to provide benefits to them. This must be a priority as we move into an era of great need with our soldiers returning home from war, our baby boomers moving into the final stages of life and the ever growing population of victims of violent crime, we must arm ourselves for work in the trenches. We must insist to policy makers that funding must increase along with the need of services. So many agencies today are so stretched. Many people working 2-3 three positions for the pay of one position. We are in a crisis and we need to come together as social workers to ensure that care is given to those in need that does not create harm or further barriers.

  5. Gregory Davis Maineville, Ohio

    Earlier this month a group of us were on a trip touring auto museums in central and eastern Pennsylvania. At the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. All of the vehicles on display here have a Pennsylvania connection. While here we heard the story of Rhea Duryea, daughter of Charles Duryea. The Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank gained fame in Massachusetts as the world's first to build an automobile intended for sale. Once the brothers parted ways, Charles came to Reading, PA where he started the Duryea Power Company. Charles was proud of how each of his vehicles were scientifically tested. The test involved his daughter Rhea driving each car after completion to the padoda in Reading's City Park at the tip top of Mount Rhea had learned to drive at age 15!

  6. Gregory Davis Maineville, OH

    Earlier in October a group of us spent four days in central and eastern Pennsylvania exploring assorted automotive museums. It was at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles that we heard the story of Rhea Duryea, daughter of Charles Duryea. The Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank made their fame in Massachusetts as the first in the world to produce automobiles intended for sale. After the two brothers parted ways Charles Duryea moved to Reading, PA where he started the Duryea Power Company. Duryea was proud of how his vehicles were each 'scientifically' tested. The test involved his daughter Rhea driving the vehicle to the pagoda in Reading's City Park at the tip top of Mount Penn. Such testing in the early 1900's was very rare. It was quite rare for women to be driving in the early 20th century but Rhea had learned to drive at age 15!

  7. Tom NH

    The Owls Head Transportation Museum, located at Owls Head, Maine, has one of the Scarabs in its collection.

  8. Tom NH

    The Owls Head Transportation Museum, located at Owls Head, Maine, has one of the Scarabs in its collection.

  9. ACE US

    How about this 102 year old lady, started driving in 1918 at the age of 8, got her license at the age of 12, and still drives her 82 yr old car today http://autos.aol.com/article/102-year-old-woman-still-drives-her-82-year-old-car/