5 Women Made History in Automobile

Women’s History Month has officially kicked off and Kontinental Driving School would like to celebrate the many accomplishments that women have given to the automobile world. When it comes to the auto industry, people generally think of the names like Henry Ford, Horace Dodge and Elon Spray; however, throughout history, women have created, provided and accomplished just as many amazing and ground breaking achievements to the automobile industry. Here are some of the amazing ladies who shaped the auto world into what we know of today.

1. Florence Lawrence - Turn Signals and Brake Lights

It may be hard to imagine when there was a period when brake lights and turn signals were non-existent. They are arguably the two most important lights on any car nowadays. Silent film star, Florencia Lawrence, invented these two contraptions soon after buying her first car in 1913. Florence came up with the idea “Auto Signaling Arm”; a tool which, after activating, would raise or lower an arm attached to a sign that indicated the directions of your upcoming turns. This device would also show a “stop” sign if you brake. Unfortunately, Florence did not obtain any patents for any of her ideas and therefore received no credit or compensation when the auto industry commenced implementing her inventions as essential features in cars soon after. In 1915, Lawrence gave up her successful acting and withdrew from the public eye altogether. It was later learned that Lawrence had developed bone-marrow disease and she later passed away in 1938.

2. Mary Anderson - Windshield Wipers

Mary Anderson was taking a trip to New York when Mary noticed the drivers having to stop and clearing the snow and rain from their windows. At this moment, an inspiration struck her. Mary Anderson invented the windshield wipers by using a swinging arm with a rubber blade that could be operated manually from inside the car. The product has become mechanized, but the concept remains relatively unchanged. Windshield wipers have become standard in automobiles production since 1916.

3. Bertha Benz - Brake Pads

The name Benz might sound a little familiar to you. That’s because Bertha Benz was the wife of famous German engineer Karl Benz. Karl was the inventor of the Motorwagen, the world’s first production automobile in 1888.

Bertha Benz was the first person to complete the world’s first long distance road trip. Bertha loaded up her Motorwagen with her two kids and travelled sixty-six miles to visit her mother. This kind of trip helped garner a lot of attention from the public to the Motorwagen, such as its travelling capabilities, which helped increase the sales of the vehicle while still moments before the car was struggling to survive in the auto industry. During Bertha Benz’s famous road trip, Bertha noticed the brakes were not responding as she wanted them to. After speaking with a blacksmith, the woman created “brake linings” which eventually evolved into what we know of today as brake pads. Today, you can retrace the trip that Bertha took with her sons. In 2008, Germany unveiled the Bertha Benz Memorial Route – making it the historic journey. The route takes drivers from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back.

4. Helen Rother - Automobile Design

Helen Rother is the first female automotive designer. As a young woman in France, Rother designed jewellery. This lasted until the World War 2, which led her and her young daughter to flee the war and stayed in a North African refugee camp. In 1941, she arrived in New York where she became an illustrator for Marvel Comics. Helen then travelled to Detroit after seeing a job listing for a motor designer at General Motors. She was accepted into the job and worked for General Motors for four years, where Helen was very successful. However, her success and achievements were downplayed, and because of this, she left General Motors and commenced working for Nash (today known as Chrysler). From 1948 to 1956, she established Nash interior designs as modern and stylish, which were dubbed the best in American automotive luxury. Rother’s designs earned her an invitation to speak at the 1951 Society of Automotive Engineers Conference. She was the first woman to ever have that honour.

5. Hedy Lamarr - GPS

Hollywood celebrity Hedy LaMarr is best known for her Oscar nominated films Algiers and Samson and Delilah. A lesser known fact about the actress is that she co-patented a tool for frequency-hopping technology in 1941. The technology would then set the foundation for today’s manufacturing of mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and of course GPS. The patent, filed with co-inventor George Antheil, was designed for radio communications to hop from one frequency to another. This enabled Allied torpedoes to be undetected by the Nazis. Regrettably, LaMarr never received anything for her invention.

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