National Women’s History Month: Road Warriors
March is National Women’s History Month and we’ve spent the month celebrating some remarkable women that we are calling “Road Warriors” for their advances in the world of driving. As you learn about these women, I urge you to learn from them. These women, whether they invented something that keeps us safe, dared to do something no woman had ever done, broke glass ceilings by becoming the first female in their profession, or, proved that girls can race, and win, right along the boys, are worthy of nothing less than celebration!
Mary Anderson: The Inventor
Our journey during Women’s History Month takes us first to Birmingham, Alabama on November 10th 1903; the day that Mary Anderson was awarded her patent for the first windshield wipers. Mary’s invention was born from a displeasure with the solution at the time, which was uncomfortable to use and hardly effective. Mary was struck with an idea as she rode in a New York City streetcar one day, unsatisfied with the standard multi-pane, lever controlled system for clearing windshields. She began sketching her idea right in the fateful street car, eventually creating a functional prototype. Sadly, Mary never made a dime off of her invention as people thought the movement of the wipers would distract the driver. Nevertheless, Mary’s invention and initiative helped paved the way for other female automotive inventors that followed shortly after.
Alice Ramsey: The Traveler
When John Rathbone Ramsey decided to buy his wife a car to replace her spook-prone horse, I doubt he realized her was helping make feminist history. Alice Ramsey was wonderful behind the wheel. At a time when driving a car was much more complicated than it is today, Alice proved her prowess behind the wheel, racking up thousands of miles practicing and perfecting her craft so much that she began entering endurance drives. It was during one of these that she was discovered by the Maxwell-Briscoe Company and approached with an interesting proposition. The company wanted to show that their car, the Maxwell, was so good that “even a woman” could drive it across country. Alice decided to take on the challenge, proving to skeptics across the country that women were just as formidable in the driver’s seat as men. Alice took three companions with her and they hit the road! The trip as not an easy one as they were met with challenge after challenge along the way, but they kept going. After 59 days, 3,800 miles, and the journey of a lifetime, Alice and her friends had successfully completed the first all-female cross-country drive, paving the way for the countless road trips to follow!
Helene Rother: The Designer
The story of our next Road Warrior begins in quite an interesting way. A trained artist, Helene Rother was busy making a name for herself by designing a line of women’s jewelry when World War II broke out and she fled for her life. Rother escaped Paris just as the German soldiers arrived, eventually making her way to Casablanca in Northern Africa. After she and her young daughter spend two months trapped in a displaced persons camp, Helene finally made it to New York in 1941. After a couple years of using her skills in various ways, Helene decided to go after a career change. When she was hired at General Motors in 1943, Rother became the first woman to work as an automotive designer. Helene Rother left her mark on motor city, designing interiors for numerous models and giving cars the fine design and details that women of the time were looking for. She attended expos, spoke at conferences, broke glass ceilings, brought home a respectable paycheck, and did it all while dressed impeccably. Her work was celebrated, just as she should be.
Danica Patrick: The Speedster
Danica Patrick has been making room for herself in the boy’s club that is professional racing for years now. Patrick made her IndyCar racing debut in the 2005 Indy 500 race, where she made history as the first woman to lead a lap in the competition; she led 19 laps that day. Finishing in fourth place wasn’t enough for Danica, however, as she went on to take home the Rookie of the Year prize that year as well. She didn’t stop there, however, continuing to race and hone her skills. It was in 2008 at the Indy Japan 300 race that she won, making her mark as the first female winner in IndyCar racing history. Only history will tell what other feats Danica Patrick will accomplish in her lifetime, but you can be sure this writer will be rooting for her!
Can you think of any other “Road Warriors” to celebrate? If so, please comment ad tell us all about them. Until next time, keep celebrating National Women’s History Month and remember to drive safely!