It’s the day of the lady, so let’s celebrate by recognizing some bad_ _ _ 😱 women who changed transportation! These female innovators crushed the competition, broke thru barriers, and handled every mode of travel like a boss.
The Model T, America’s first affordable mass-produced car, was invented in 1908 and just one year later Alice Huyler Ramsey became the first woman to drive coast-to-coast from New York to California (in 59 days). She also founded the first Women’s Automobile Club in the country. Move over gentleman, a woman’s place is at the wheel.
Way before Yellow Cab, Wilma Russey became the first woman to work as a New York taxi driver in 1915 and just also happened to be an expert garage mechanic.
Marilyn Jorgensen Reece
If you break barriers at a transportation agency, instead of a gold pen you get a highway named after you. Hmmm, note to self. Marilyn Jorgensen Reece became the first female engineer for California’s Division of Highways in 1948. She designed the 1-10/1-405 interchange, now named after her, and later worked on several other major state freeways.
Ahoy ladies! Before reality TV stars, lighthouse keepers were sensational news.
Ida Lewis was a nationally known heroine and the best-known lighthouse keeper of 1869, after rescuing two soldiers from the freezing waters of Newport Harbor in a snowstorm. She’s officially credited with 18 rescues during her 58-year tenure at the Lime Rock Beacon lighthouse in Rhode Island.
In 1940, Mary Converse was the first woman to earn a captain’s license in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Uncle Sam came calling during WWII and asked Mary to teach navigation to U.S. Navy sailors. Incidentally, she unsuccessfully tried to have the pronouns on her license changed from “he” to “she.”
Ann Davison took alone time to the extreme in 1952 when she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo in a sailboat.
When Boeing was just a baby Bessie Coleman was exploring the skies as the first African American, male or female, to earn a pilot’s license (1921). After white pilots refused her lessons she went to France and enrolled in Ecole d ’Aviation de Freres Caudron, the most famous flying school in the country and graduated 10 months later.
Legendary is the best word to describe Amelia Earhart. If you don’t know who she is, why weren’t you paying more attention in history class? In 1932, she famously became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She set too many other records to count, received a Distinguished Flying Cross for her accomplishments, was a best-selling author, and visiting faculty and advisor to the Purdue University Aeronautical Engineering program. Geez, talk about multi-tasking. Her disappearance during her circumnavigational flight around the globe in 1937 has inspired fascination but may have just been solved.
Inspired by Bessie Colman, Willa Brown began flying lessons in 1934 and three years later became the first African-American commercial pilot. She later taught flying courses in Chicago high schools and founded a flying school at Harlem Airport.
We could go on and on, the list of ladies who’ve made their mark on transportation is longer than an Instant Pot instruction manual. So major props to all those who’ve come before and to those girls who are going to take us to places we never imagined!