A Brief History
On August 7, 1909, Alice Huyer Ramsey and 3 other women completed a 59-day road trip from New York to San Francisco, the first women to drive across the continent in a car. Other women have also been famous or notorious for what they did in or on cars; some may have already been famous and others achieved fame because of their association with a car. Here we list 10 such women. Who would you add to the list? (Dishonorable Mention to Britney Spears for not knowing how to get in or out of a car and to Lindsay Lohan for not knowing how to drive.)
10. Alice Ramsey and Friends, Long Distance Drive.
Driving a Maxwell 30 for 3,800 miles across the U.S. was quite a feat in 1909, and for 4 women to do it made it extra special. Historical Fact: Only Alice knew how to drive; the other 3 ladies were along for the ride! The trip was staged by the car’s manufacturer, Maxwell-Briscoe. Incredibly, only 152 miles of the trip was on paved roads. Facing bedbugs and actual Native Americans with bows and arrows, Alice survived the trip and lived until 1983, when she died at age 96.
9. Jacqueline Kennedy, Present at Assassination.
On a more macabre note, the First Lady of the United States was sitting next to the President when he was shot through the neck and head in 1963. The photographic images of her crawling out onto the trunk of the convertible limousine in a desperate attempt to get his head pieces and brains back haunt America to this day.
8. Numerous, Automobile Accidents.
Some of the famous women that met their end in automotive accidents include: Princess Diana (1997); Jayne Mansfield (1967); Princess Grace Kelly (1982); Isadora Duncan (1927, choked when her long scarf caught in a rear wheel); Linda Lovelace (star of Deep Throat, 2002); Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With The Wind, hit by a drunk driver in 1949); Dottie West (country music star, 1991) and Karen Silkwood (labor union activist, subject of the 1983 movie Silkwood, 1974) Of course, there have been many others, too many to name here.
7. Shirley Muldowney, Drag Racing.
“The First Lady of Drag Racing” was indeed the first lady to earn a license to compete in NHRA events, winning the Top Fuel Championship 3 times, the first person to win twice and then three times! She was named to the (American) Motorsports Hall of Fame, the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame and to the NHRA Top 50 Drivers of 1951-2000. The winner of 18 national NHRA events, Muldowney may be the greatest female race car driver of all time. A major motion picture, Heart Like a Wheel (1983), is based on her life.
6. Mary Barra, CEO of GM.
In 2013 history was made when General Motors, the world’s largest automobile producer, made Mary Barra the first CEO of a major automobile manufacturer. Barra, age 51, had already been a GM executive for years and is one of the comparatively many women that have recently been handed the reins of major companies such as IBM, H-P, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Yahoo.
5. Janet Guthrie, Race Car Driver.
A now retired racing pioneer, Guthrie was the first woman to qualify and race in both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. She has been inducted in both the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and her racing suit and helmet are on display at the Smithsonian Institution, a further honor.
4. Danica Patrick, Race Car Driver.
This 5’2” 100-pound bundle of dynamite is the only woman to have won an IndyCar race (2008, Japan 300), and she finished a record 3rd in the 2009 Indy 500. Switching to NASCAR, Danica Patrick is the first woman to win a pole position, a feat she accomplished in the 2013 Daytona 500. She holds the Indy Racing League record for 50 finishes in a row with her car still running, beating the old record by 18!
3. Thelma and Louise, Motion Picture.
With Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as the title characters in the 1991 film, the last scene where the 2 women drive their 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible off a cliff into the Grand Canyon is a classic movie moment for the ages.
2. Paris Hilton, Television Commercial.
The sight of slinky Paris Hilton wearing an incredibly sexy bathing suit while soaping up a car and eating a big, juicy Carl Jr.’s hamburger was a 2005 television commercial salivated over by millions of men. The car did not seem to mind, either.
1. Mercedes Jellinek, Mercedes-Benz.
In 1900 Emil Jellinek, an Austrian diplomat and car dealer living in France, offered to finance a new Daimler automobile on the condition that the car be named after his daughter. The deal was struck, and Daimler cars have been named Mercedes ever since. When Daimler merged with Benz in 1926, they decided to keep the name, and their prestigious product became Mercedes-Benz.
For more information, please read…