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Tags: women | automobiles | history | inventions

Women Who Changed Automotive History

Lauren Fix By Friday, 19 March 2021 05:07 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It's National Women's History Month, so lets celebrate the Women who changed automotive history.

You may not realize that reason you have some great features and technologies in your vehicle because women didn't like the original method and invented a better solution. The first woman to drive a car was Bertha Benz, she was a pioneer, she also took the first road trip in a car.

Bertha Benz was married to Carl Benz and supported him in the invention of the automobile. No one was very interested in his motorcar until Bertha and their sons took a now-famous road trip. Without Carl's knowledge, Bertha and the boys snuck the car out of Carl's workshop and took it on the first-long-distance road trip, from Mannheim to Pforzheim.

It was a rough ride on roads built for horses and carriages. She made several repairs during her journey and even invented the first brake pad, made of leather, when the car's wooden brakes failed. But she is the first women to test drive a car.

But this is just the beginning, these inventions make your life easier. Stay till the end, and I'll tell you about my design that changed the automotive aftermarket.

Margaret Wilcox was a trailblazer. Born in 1838, she was one of the very few female engineers of the time. In 1893, she received the patent for the interior car heater when she engineered a system that pulled the heat from the engine then redirected the air inside the cabin of the car which kept its occupants warm. The revolutionary system became the basis of all future car heating systems.

Wilcox was one of the first ever female mechanical engineers responsible for life-changing inventions such as the bake pan, combined clothes and dishwasher machine and the home heater.

Mary Anderson and Charlotte Bridgwood invented the windshield wipers that help us to drive safely in rain and snow. Mary Anderson noticed that when it was snowing that drivers would stop every few blocks to clear off the windscreen. Mary created a hand operating device, with a hand operated handle on the inside and a rubber blade on the outside. A patent was granted to her in 1903. Manufacturers thought this had no value. She never made any money with the patent because it expired before manufacturers realized this was necessary. She became a successful developer.

In 1917, Charlotte Bridgwood upgraded the wiper to be electrically operated, her design used rollers instead of blades to clean a windshield. Anderson and Bridgwood were too smart for their time because their patents expired after not getting enough attention from automakers. Little did they know windshield wipers would eventually become a standard feature in all cars.

By 1922, Cadillac took Anderson's idea and applied it to their own cars as standard, with other manufacturers quickly hopping onto the bandwagon.

At one point in automotive history, brake lights and turn signals didn't exist until silent-film actress Florence Lawrence saw the need. Drivers would use hand signals or nothing. Enter Florence Lawrence who starred in over 300 films and effectively became one of the world's first ever movie celebrity. She made a ton of money from her career and was rich enough to be able to purchase a motorcar.

Driving was an activity that Lawrence found great enjoyment in; it was said to give her a brilliant sense of freedom and independence. There were just a couple of things missing and she decided to invent them!

In 1913, Lawrence invented a device called the Auto Signaling Arm, a special mechanism which worked as a signaling arm to inform other motorists of which direction the driver was heading. This would form the basis of turning signals and was a revolutionary idea, as occupants usually lifted their arms left or right to indicate their intended direction.

Lawrence then created a sign which would pop up on the back of the car upon pressing the brake pedal. The sign simply read the word, 'Stop'. In case you can't guess already, this formed the basis of the brake light!

Dorothy Levitt invented the rear-view mirror. Levitt was the first British female racing driver and a pioneer of women in the automotive sector. She taught Queen Alexandra how to drive alongside the then royal princesses. She even holds the world's first water speed record.

She wrote a book titled 'The Woman and the Car' which was published in 1909. In it, there was a recommendation that women drivers should always have a little mirror inside the car while driving. She stressed that it must be placed in a convenient spot so that things behind were visible. That formed the basis of the rear-view mirror, and manufacturers quickly caught on as it became a feature a few years later in 1914.

June McCarrol invented road lane separation. She was a nurse who was involved in a pretty scary incident in 1917. While driving her Ford Model T, a truck was approaching in the opposite direction, forcing her to swerve off the road to avoid a nasty crash. She then had an idea which would change the roads forever.

She personally painted a set of white lines across that road. The street is now known as Indio Boulevard in California. The idea was to separate traffic onto each side to avoid head-on incidents.

By 1924, her idea was adopted by the California Highway Commission which made the center lines mandatory and proceeded to paint 3,500 miles of road lines across the county. Soon afterward, every state followed suit for drivers' safety.

Many believe that in 1906 Edward Hines of Michigan made claim to be the inventor. Either way, the roads are much safer.

Katharine Blodgett, an engineer and scientist, invented the non-reflective glass and anti-glare windshields. In 1926, at age 21, Blodgett was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Physics at Cambridge University.

In 1938, she developed a liquid soap that, when 44 layers were spread over glass, would allow 99% of light to pass through. Her development paved the way for future engineers to create a more durable coating that wouldn't wipe off.

>Hedy Lamar, the famous actress was the inventor of the Bluetooth features. In the 1940s, Lamar invented a device that blocked enemy ships from interrupting torpedo guidance signals. The device would take the torpedo signals and make them jump from frequency to frequency, making it near impossible for an enemy to locate the message.

It's this "frequency jumping" technology we find in the Bluetooth features in our car letting us talk on the phone hands-free or stream our favorite music. Her technology can also be found in cell-phones, Wi-Fi and GPS.

Gladys Mae West invented GPS, she is a mathematician who worked for the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Gladys Mae West was the project manager for SEASAT, the first earth-orbiting satellite measuring ocean depths.

That work on the 1978 SEASAT project helped West and her team build the GEOSAT satellite creating computer simulations of earth's surfaces. Her calculations and work on the SEASAT and GEOSAT helped make the GPS systems in our cars – we'd be lost without her.

Some extra fun facts:

In 1898, Genevra Delphine Mudge of New York became the earliest known woman to receive a driver's license, she was also the first female driver in an automobile accident. Her first car was a Waverly electric which she drove on the streets of New York City.

Among the female firsts, was Duchesse d Uzes, of France, who in 1898 was the first woman to receive a speeding ticket for going 9 mph in a 7 mph zone.

Bottom Line:

So many more women have been an important part of the auto history and we will go over that in another video, from racing to auto shows to advertisements.

My automotive invention: In 1982, I was working at a break rebuilding company, the core product was Corvette and Mustang brake rebuilding. As we attended many swap meets people would tell me they wanted front disc brakes but had drum brakes and hated them especially in the rain.

Over the next few months, I created the first drum to disc brake conversion kit for 1965-67 Mustangs to add front disc brakes to early Mustangs, I later added more older vehicles and rear disc brake kits that are now readily available in the automotive aftermarket for sports and muscle cars.

If you have additional questions, put them in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer.

There are more features and design information that we cover in our video review. Check out the Car Coach Reports Ratings on this video before you buy any vehicle.

Don't forget to check out our all-new website Car Coach Reports.

There are more features and design information that we cover in our video review. Check out the Car Coach Reports Ratings on this video before you buy any vehicle.

There are more features and design information that we cover in our video review. Check out the Car Coach Reports Ratings on this video before you buy any vehicle.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. Post your comments on Twitter: @LaurenFix or on her Facebook Page.

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It's National Women's History Month, so lets celebrate the Women who changed automotive history.
women, automobiles, history, inventions
Friday, 19 March 2021 05:07 PM
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