Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century

Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century
Age Range
Release Date
February 07, 2017
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Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women – Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century – who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.

Editor review

1 review
A Driven Look at Women's History
Overall rating
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Having explored how women gained freedom in the mid 1800s and onward in her 2011 Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way), Macy follows this up with a great explanation of how the newfangled motor car was even more influential. Since early automobiles were so different from ones today, and since the whole experience of road travel was much more fraught with problems, there is a lot of discussion about the development of the auto and all it's attendant accoutrements. Imagine traveling even fifty miles without the benefit of roads, gas stations, or reliable tires!

Since my grandmother, who was born in 1893, never learned to drive a car, I was greatly impressed by the description of the women who took on this new and exciting machine and excelled at its use, even though they were not encouraged to do so. I knew about Alice Ramsay from the book Brown's 2000 book Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure,but I didn't know about Lillian Sheridan, who was the first female tire salesperson, Mary Dexter, who was a nurse who drove ambulances during World War I, or Olive Schultz, who was the first female taxi driver. I loved reading books to my girls about strong female role models when they were young, so that they would know that they were able to do just about anything they set their mind to. This book includes lots of great examples.
Good Points
This is a beautifully formatted book, with plentiful illustrations to support the text, informative sidebars, and biographical information about particular women who drove at the time. Keep in mind that this is a National Geographic publication, and their archives must be bursting with undiscovered treasures. Like their photobiographies (including Mithcell's Liftoff: A Photobiography of John Glenn and Delano's Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's Teacher) anything that I could have wanted a picture of was presented.

Macy always presents a well researched book, and there are a lot of facts packed into this brief 96 page book. Students who are using this for a history project will appreciate the complete bibliography, but readers who just want a book filled with amusing facts will not be disappointed.

I love that the foreword is by Danica Patrick, who says that her parents never told her she couldn't drive because she was a girl, and the chapter about women driving during WWI was particularly interesting. Who knew that Madame C.J. Walker's daughter was in the Colored Women's Motor Corps? Who even knew that such an organization even existed!

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