This International Women’s Week, we look at some of the famous women in motoring and how their innovations have helped shape the automotive industry.

Women have made a major impact on the automotive industry and continue to do so today. We will explore the stories of these inspiring women and discover how their contributions have helped to revolutionise the world of motoring.

Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson was a pioneering woman in the motoring industry and is best remembered for her invention of the windshield wiper.

Before the production of Henry Ford’s classic cars, Anderson had already come up with the idea for windshield wipers, which would help improve safety for drivers in all conditions.

Scepticism surrounded the invention, as many felt that the movement of the windshield wipers would be a distraction for drivers. However, by 1913, thousands of Americans were driving their own cars and mechanical windshield wipers had become a standard part of the car’s equipment.

Now, a century later, it’s almost impossible to imagine what drivers would ever do without them. Mary Anderson’s innovation is an important part of the history of cars and women in the automotive industry.

Bertha Benz

Bertha Benz

Bertha Benz was one of the most influential women in motoring.

She invested in Karl Benz’s failing iron construction company, allowing him to begin a new venture, Benz & Company. Bertha identified key areas to improve, such as the fuel line design and inventing leather pads to supplement the wooden brakes. She also had a hand in the business side of the company.

Bertha undertook the first long-distance journey in an automobile by driving it 67 miles to her parent’s house. During this journey, the Motorwagen created a stir that catapulted the Benz family to fame and fortune. Her bravery and determination to prove the capabilities of the Motorwagen set her apart from other women in motoring, paving the way for future advancements in automotive technology.

Margaret A. Wilcox

Margaret A. Wilcox

Margaret A. Wilcox is best known for her invention of the car heater in 1893.

Her invention was revolutionary in its day, as it allowed car occupants to stay warm during long drives. She figured that, since engines create a lot of heat, she could run a channel of air through the engine and then send it back into the rail cars. It was a pretty genius concept, one that hadn’t been considered previously.

Wilcox received a patent for her idea in November 1893.

This was an especially important moment in her life, as it was against the law for women to file patents in their own names until the late 1800s; before that, they would have to file under their father or husband’s name. Despite this limitation, Wilcox received full credit for her invention and became a pioneer in motoring.

Her invention eventually became a safety concern when there wasn’t a way to regulate the temperature, but her design still served as the basis for the modern-day car heater. Margaret A. Wilcox is one of the key female innovators in motoring who helped make car travel more comfortable for all.

Dr Gladys West

Dr Gladys West, the brilliant mathematician and programmer, is a trailblazer in technology and an unsung hero in women’s history. As the second black woman to be hired on a naval base, she made significant contributions to the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS), a technology that revolutionised modern navigation.

Her remarkable ability to solve complex mathematical equations earned her the admiration of her colleagues and enabled her to make ground-breaking scientific contributions to geodesy and the understanding of the Earth’s shape.

Although her invaluable work on GPS went unrecognised for many years, she was finally acknowledged for her achievements in 2010. Without Dr Gladys West’s programming and mathematical skills, the computer that calculated Earth’s geoid to the precision necessary for GPS technology would not have been possible.

Alice Huyler Ramsey

Alice Huyler Ramsey

Alice Huyler Ramsey is a pioneering woman in history who accomplished a remarkable feat by being the first woman to drive an automobile across the United States. As a 22-year-old in 1908, she discovered her love for driving when her husband bought her first car.

Alice’s passion for driving led her to compete in the American Automobile Association’s Montauk Point endurance race, where she met Carl Kelsey, who was handling Maxwell’s publicity.

Maxwell was keen on targeting the female market, which traditionally had not been a target demographic that was encouraged to drive. Maxwell provided Alice with a new touring car and parts as needed, along with an all-expenses-paid adventure across the United States.

Over 59 days, Alice drove across the United States and disproved the myth that women were incapable of driving and taking care of automobiles. Her incredible journey has made her a remarkable woman in history and an inspiration to women around the world.

Florence Lawrence

Florence Lawrence

Florence Lawrence is not just a famous actress but also an unsung heroine in women’s history, who made significant contributions to the automotive industry. She recognised the dangers associated with motoring, not just for drivers but also for pedestrians who were unaware of a vehicle’s turning direction.

To solve this issue, she invented the “auto-signalling arm,” which alerted her to a change of direction with two flags on the rear of the car controlled by buttons. She also developed a stop sign that rotated when breaking, which helped avoid collisions.

Despite her ground-breaking inventions, Florence never patented these ideas, which meant not only was she not paid for them but she did not receive recognised for her innovations either. Thankfully, her legacy lives on as her inventions are now an integral part of modern-day driving, making her a remarkable woman in history who deserves recognition for her invaluable contributions to road safety.

Women such as Mary Anderson, Bertha Benz, Margaret A. Wilcox, Dr Gladys West, Alice Huyler Ramsey, and Florence Lawrence have made a significant impact on the motoring industry. These women, through their inventions and achievements, have altered the course of the automotive world.

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