Celebrating Trailblazing Women in Automotive

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Move over, gentlemen. This Women’s History Month we are celebrating some seriously impressive women who helped shape the automotive industry. These amazing individuals prove that women have not only been immensely influential on the history of automotive, but that women are crucial for the future of auto. Join us in honoring these women you may not have heard of and learn about their incredible contributions to the world of automotive!

Mary Anderson

(By Steven Shaffer)

When you drive in the rain, thank Mary. She invented the manual windshield wiper in 1903. As the story goes, Mary went on a trolley ride one snowy winter’s day. Sleet kept piling up on the trolley windscreen and Mary watched the trolley driver repeatedly open the window and then lean out to wipe the windshield by hand. “WTH?”, she must have thought. Mary patented the windshield wiper that same year. Talk about a woman who got things done!

 

 

 

(This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND)

 

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC

Danica Patrick

(By Kasey McNerney)

Women have been involved in motorsports for decades, but Danica Patrick attracted more attention to female race car drivers than anyone before.

Starting off in the IndyCar Series in 2005, Patrick made a big splash in her rookie season, earning three pole positions and nabbing Rookie of the Year honors. Three years later, in Japan, Patrick became the first female driver to win an IndyCar Series race. She was always tough competition at the prestigious Indianapolis 500, being the first woman to lead laps in the race and earning a top finish of third in 2009.

In 2012, Patrick made the jump to NASCAR, where she also broke many barriers. In 2013 – her first full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series – she became the first woman to earn a pole position for the Daytona 500 (NASCAR’s premier event). Her eighth-place finish was the best for any woman at Daytona thus far. Patrick is also one of only 14 drivers, male or female, to have led laps in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.

Because of Danica Patrick’s breakthroughs in the racing world, younger female drivers like Hailie Deegan and Natalie Decker have been able to find teams and exposure for themselves, continuing women’s push into motorsports.

 

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Mary Barra

(By Kasey McNerney)

General Motors has been breaking barriers in car manufacturing since it was founded in 1908. In 2014, GM broke the glass ceiling by hiring Mary Barra as Chairman and CEO. This hire made Barra the first female CEO of a major automaker.

Barra was already a GM veteran, having started with the company in 1980. She used the money she earned through that first job to pay for her degree in Electrical Engineering. During her long career with General Motors, Barra has served as Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering and Vice President of Global Human Resources, among other titles. She also has connections to the great House of Mouse, serving on Disney’s board since 2017.

As one of Forbes’ Most Powerful Women, Barra has her eyes on the future. The company recently announced plans to go all-electric by 2035.

 

 

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Courtney Caldwell

( By Annie Boss)

Isn’t it crazy that women drive cars? No. It isn’t. So, wouldn’t it make a little more sense to include women’s insights in the automotive market? Courtney Caldwell thought so.

Caldwell founded Road & Travel Magazine (originally published under the title American Woman Motorscene) in 1989, after acknowledging the woefully small number of automotive resources marketed toward women.

The initial purview of RTM focused on automotive, travel, climate change, and personal safety issues, all with a slant towards women. Gradually, the publication opened up to being an overall lifestyle magazine for the average consumer. RTM made the jump to being a fully online publication in 2000 and is currently the largest online resource to include women’s auto and travel markets.

Caldwell has continued to serve as the magazine’s editor, and has written numerous articles on travel, auto, and safety. Outside of her magazine work, she has also served as a script writer for event and on-air television productions. You could say she has written her own way into the history books.

 

 

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Hedy Lamarr

(By Adrien Perucho)

Often called “The Most Beautiful Woman in Film”, Hedy Lamarr was one of the most popular actresses from the 1930s to the 1950s. But that’s not what landed her on this list. Lamarr was much more than just a pretty face; she also happened to be a genius inventor!

She started acting at age 16 and eventually made her way to Hollywood where she would become known for her roles in films such as ‘Algiers’ and ‘Samson and Delilah’. Mainly given roles for her physical appearance, Lamarr often didn’t have more than a few lines. That meant she had plenty of free time to work on other projects.

When she wasn’t dazzling audiences, Lamarr was off solving problems. Once having said, “Improving things comes naturally to me,” Hedy Lamarr would go on to make an updated stoplight and a dissolving tablet that turned a glass of water into a soda similar to Coca-Cola. These innovative pursuits soon led to her teaming up with a man named George Antheil to invent a revolutionary communication system that allowed to torpedos to “frequency hop” amongst radio waves. This ground-breaking innovation would help lead the way to GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.

Even though her genius was evident, Lamarr never made a penny from her invention and only started to receive recognition in her later years. In 1997, the Electronic Frontier Foundation jointly awarded Lamarr and Antheil their Pioneer Award. Hedy Lamarr also became the first woman to receive the Invention Convention’s Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award and she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. The next time you bring up Spotify on your phone and blast it through your car’s stereo, be sure to thank “The Most Beautiful Woman in Film” turned “Mother of Wi-Fi”, Hedy Lamarr.

Well done, ladies!

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Steven Shaffer

Steven Shaffer

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