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Women in Automotive History

Carmudi honors the unsung female heroes in the automobile narrative 

 

The automatic perception attached to cars and driving in general is very masculine, but women have also been, and still are, very active in the automobile scene. This Women’s History Month, Carmudi (http://www.carmudi.ae/), the online marketplace for buying and selling cars, brings you the some of the lesser known achievements of women in the automotive industry. This is not a comprehensive list, but a dip into women’s achievements in the industry.

Mary Anderson and the Windshield Wipers

This is a typical story of ‘necessity breeds ingenuity’. Anderson was on a trip to New York City in the winter of 1902 when she realized her driver was having trouble keeping the windowpane clear of sleet, making the roads less visible. That gave her the idea of creating a spring-loaded rubber arm that would run back and forth over the windshield. While she got a patent for her device, manufacturing businesses at the time did not believe the device was sale worthy and refused to buy her designs. It was after the patent expired in 1920 and the automobile industry boomed that Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to make Anderson’s designs a standard.

Florence Lawrence and the Turning Signals

More known for her glamorous acting career and considered the first movie star, Lawrence also dabbled in the automotive arts quite often. Her career in the film industry meant she could afford a car on her own back in 1913. She told reporters that “the average woman does her own repairing. She is curious enough to investigate every little creak and squeak of her car, and to remedy it.” She found faults of her own to remedy when she devised an auto signaling arm, which allowed the user to press a button and a mechanized arm would raise or lower with a sign to where the driver was turning. She also added a sign at the back of her car that automatically raised when she pressed the brakes, warning the people behind her that she was stopping. Lawrence never got around to patenting her designs, so didn’t get any credit when turn signals and brake lights were incorporated into the standard car.

Alice Huyler Ramsey and the Ultimate Road Trip

Today we can comfortably set out on a long drive confident that our cars will give us no major headaches, the roads will be smooth and if we get lost, the good ol’ Internet will help us out. When Ramsey set out on a 5,767 kilometer road trip from New York to California in 1909, only 4% of the drive was paved, and she relied on paper maps and telephone poles to find her way. Over the course of her excursion, she changed tires 11 times, repaired brake pads, cleaned spark plugs, and even had to sleep in the car once when it was stuck in mud. The 22-year-old arrived at her destination 59 days later to great celebration. On October 17, 2000, Ramsey became the first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

So, next time you drive in the rain, think of Mary Anderson and thank her for windshield wipers. If you are still on the hunt for your dream car, look for it on http://www.carmudi.ae/ or simply download the Carmudi app to find your car on the go.

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