10 Women who shaped the automotive industry

10 Women who shaped the automotive industry

We chose to go back in time and highlight some of the women who have had a long historical relationship in automotive history — as women all over the world celebrated Women's Day this March.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Who invented the windshield wiper?

    Mary Anderson in 1930. She devised a workaround by fastening a rubber blade to a spring-loaded arm that could pivot. Then, in effect, anything obstructing the driver's view would be wiped away by this action. Although it would be mounted on the exterior, it would be controllable from the inside.
  • Who is the first female F3 driver from the UAE?

    The first female F3 driver from the UAE is Nahla Al Rostamani. As her uncle taught her to drive at the young age of 12, she developed a passion for motorsport.
  • Let's look at a few of the incredible women whose journeys have been marked by willpower and tenacity, women who persistently push against the restrictions and limitations placed on them.

    Margaret Wilcox (1893)

    The first in-car heating system was created by Margaret Wilcox and patented in 1893. Before the idea was accepted by the automakers, it took many decades. Even after that, they only made it available as a luxurious added feature.

    Margaret Wilcox

    Then, in 1929, Ford added in-car heating to the Model A, making it the first vehicle to do so out of the factory. A turning point in Wilcox's career as an inventor occurred as a result of this. It also occurred at a time when she could patent her invention under her own name rather than that of her husband, which was customary in the United States until 1809.

    Minnie Palmer (1897)

    Minnie Palmer, an actress of American descent, was the first woman to drive and own a car in England.

    Palmer demonstrated that women can drive equally well to men when she took her new Rougemont car, which was made in France, out on the road.

    Minnie Palmer

    Women weren't even yet permitted to vote during this time period. Palmer set a significant milestone on the way for equal voting rights for women, which came about just 31 years later.

    Soon after, women started operating repair shops and driving schools. Since then, women have started to redefine their identities in the automotive industry.

    Vera Hedges Butler (1900)

    The first woman in Britain to pass the driving test was Vera Hedges Butler. She had to travel to Paris for the tests because it hadn't begun in Britain yet. The capacity of Butler to take off, steer, and stop was assessed. She also had her knowledge of what to do in the event of a breakdown evaluated.

    Notable additions include the fact that France was the first nation to implement parking limits, a driving exam, and license plates in 1983. In Britain, testing wasn't made mandatory until June 1, 1935.

    Mary Anderson (1903)

    Mary Anderson, an inventor, ran into a dilemma on a snowy day in New York City. She observed that the streetcar's driver had to open his window in order to scrape the ice off his windscreen. As a result, the cabin was flooded with frosty air, making every passenger chilly. She may have seen the driver's window open for this reason as well.

    She devised a workaround by fastening a rubber blade to a spring-loaded arm that could pivot. Then, in effect, anything obstructing the driver's view would be wiped away by this action. Although it would be mounted on the exterior, it would be controllable from the inside.

    Mary received a patent for the concept in 1903, but the idea wasn't instantly accepted by the motor industry since they believed it would actually distract the driver. Despite wipers becoming a common feature on all cars, Anderson was never truly able to profit from it. She did, however, was featured in a 2006 episode of The Simpsons.

    Odette Siko and Marguerite Mareuse (1930)

    When the first women competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1930, Odette Siko and Marguerite Mareuse changed the face of motorsport. They competed in a Bugatti Type 40, and their overall seventh-place finish is the best by an all-female squad so far!

    In Marguerite Mareuse's Bugatti T40, Odette Siko and Marguerite Mareuse competed in another Le Mans race in 1931, but they were disqualified. Siko entered the pits too soon after misinterpreting a pit signal. They would have placed tenth if they hadn't been disqualified.

    Both of them competed in the 1931 Grand Prix Feminin at Montlhery following Le Mans. Siko came in third place, and Mareuse came in fifth.

    Gail Wise (1964)

    Gail Wise is credited for creating history for two reasons — she was the first person in the world to own a Mustang and the first woman to do it. Wise needed a car now that she had her first teaching position, and the only requirement she had was that it had to be a convertible.

    Gail Wise

    On a beautiful day in 1964, Wise entered the Ford dealership that was the closest to her. She took a peek around, but she didn't notice anything. She was then informed by the dealership manager that they did not have a convertible on the floor but instead advised her to follow him to the back where he was holding something special.

    She fell in love with the skylight blue convertible Mustang that was hiding in the back right away. She immediately threw her very first teacher's paycheck on it. Two days before it made its formal debut in the world, Wise paid $3,400 for it to become the first Mustang owner!

    Helen Clifford (1983)

    In stations, garages, engineering works, and depots in the middle of the 1970s, women were being asked to fill tasks that were normally performed by men. At the age of 18, Helen Clifford applied for and successfully completed a course at West Ham Garage to become the organization's first female bus mechanic. Helen soon obtained her license to drive buses as well.

    Helen Clifford

    Nahla Al Rostamani (2005)

    The first female F3 driver from the UAE is Nahla Al Rostamani. As her uncle taught her to drive at the young age of 12, she developed a passion for motorsport. Since then, she has been behind the wheel whenever possible.

    She used to go karting virtually daily at the Dubai Autodrome when she was 20 years old, and in 2005 she was nominated to get her racing license in Bahrain. Al Rostamani agreed and went to Bahrain by herself for the three-day training program. There were 17 other participants, and she was the sole female. She became the first UAE girl to enroll in and finish the course after successfully completing it and earning the Formula Ford license.

    Al Rostamani began working full-time at the Dubai Autodrome in 2007 and performed numerous tasks there. She eventually volunteered and gained knowledge about maintaining race time. She later became the first qualified female race timekeeper in the Emirati nation after timing more than 40 events over a five-year period. She was also the first Emirati woman to collaborate directly with F1 management and well-known F1 drivers like Sebastian Vettel, and she even made friends with ex-drivers Jonny Herbert and Jean Alesi.

    Elena Ford (2013)

    Elena Ford is Henry Ford's great-great-granddaughter. Elena started working for Ford in 1995 and had a number of marketing-related positions. She was appointed director of operations for global sales, marketing, and customer service in 2009.

    Elena Ford

    When she was named the Vice President of Customer Experience and Global Dealers in 2013, she became the first female Ford family member to ever hold an executive role. Later, in 2018, she was introduced as the first Chief Customer Experience Officer of the business.

    In 1994, when her cousin Bill Ford was named vice president of commercial trucks, the Ford family made its last executive announcement. He later advanced and rose through the ranks to take the executive chairman position at Ford.

    Mary T. Barra (2016)

    The first female CEO of a significant automobile firm is Mary Barra. She has more than nine years of experience working for General Motors, one of the biggest automakers in the world. She was appointed chairman of the board of directors in 2016.

    Her position as CEO has elevated her not just in the business world but also in the automobile industry, as she was named one of the most powerful women in Forbes and Fortune Magazine.

    Mary T Barra

    Photos from drive.com.au (Margaret A. Wilcox), Voyagermpv.co.uk (Minnie Palmer, Helen Clifford), GM Authority (Mary T. Barra), Ford (Elena Ford, Gail Wise)

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