breakfast of coffee, corn flakes, and canned tomatoes scrounged from a general store.
Soon the Maxwell reached Ohio; driving the Cleveland Highway they set a personal
best, attaining “the terrific speed of 42 miles per hour.” Though the Maxwell-Briscoe
Company would publish an ad upon arrival stating that the group traveled “without a
particle of car trouble,” this was far from the truth. Already, Ramsey had fixed at least
one tire blowout and had called for a mechanic to repair a coil in Syracuse, waiting near
their car as someone in the crowd cried “Get a horse!” as Ramsey would recall.
In the Midwest, the car ran out of gas. The women had forgotten to check the tank, a
chains, westward on a transcontinental crusade: the first all-female, cross-country road
Ramsey hadn’t set out to make feminist history—ironically, two men laid the
groundwork for her trip. Her husband set the wheels in motion the previous year, after
a “monster” scared Ramsey’s horse when it sped past at 30 miles per hour; John
Rathbone Ramsey thought it wise to purchase his wife a car as well. Ramsey took to
driving, and that summer she clocked 6,000 miles traveling the mostly dirt “highways”
near her Hackensack, New Jersey, home. When she entered an endurance drive, a 200-
mile trip to and from Montauk, a man representing automaker Maxwell-Briscoe
Company marveled at her driving prowess and came up with an idea. He proposed an
all-expenses-paid trip, courtesy of the company, if Ramsey showed the world that a
Maxwell could take anyone—even a woman driver—all the way across America.
To accompany her on the trip, Ramsey brought Nettie Powell and Margaret Atwood,
|Celebrating the centennial of Alice Huyler Ramsey's road trip
Alice Huyler Ramsey set out 100 years ago on the first U.S.
cross-country trek with a woman driving. The country's been on
a two-way street ever since.
By Christopher Smith
|Alice Huyler Ramsey
265 pp, 161 illustrations,
108 notes, index.
$19.95 plus $4.95 s/h
|How Nicole Solved the Puzzle
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
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|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
1. Alice Huyler Ramsey,
the first woman to drive across the United States, coast to coast.
2. 59 days
3. H. Nelson Jackson and his friend, a mechanic named Sewall K. Crocker, 1903
|1. Who is this woman and what "first" is she credited with?
2. How long did it take her?
3. What man was the first person to do this?
|Special Challenge Photo
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Gary Sterne Ed Vielmetti
Janice M. Sellers Daniel Jolley
Donna Jolley Elaine C. Hebert
Margaret Waterman Milene Rawlinson
Herschel Browne Deena Proctor
Bill Hurley Audrey Nicholson
JoLynn Pfeiffer Carole Cropley
Carole Farrant Kitty Huddleston
Mary Tanona Rebecca Bare
Alex Sissoev Bill Burrows
Alan Cullinan Gina Hudson
Mike Dalton Peter Norton
Collier Smith Marjorie Wilser
Arthur Hartwell Bob Witherspoon
Michael G. Adan Richard Wakeham
Mary Fraser Jim Bullock
Maureen O'Connor Sharon Taber
Cynthia Costigan Judith Bennett Kernan
Diane Burkett Sharon Cleveland
Nicole Blank Carl Blessing
David Cornette Marilyn Hamill
Jim Kiser John Chulick
Cynthia Fitzpatrick Cate Bloomquist
Betty Chambers Margreet Brouwer
|Comments from Our Readers
|Women’s history is getting better coverage, but that’s still my favorite hot-button item.
When my kids performed in the NH Dance Institute, and the Artistic Director was
doing “original” shows, I kept steering her toward women’s stories, because it was so
much harder to “hang” a 20-dance themed show around a woman.
Ultimately she did stories around Nellie Bly and Isabella Bird (who explored the West in
the 1800s), as well as Annie Moore, the first person to pass through Ellis Island (and
what a tragic history she ended up with…) Mary Fraser
N.B. Keep in mind that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only
backwards and in high heels. - Q. Gen.
I've always like the lists of things that women invented. I try not to take a lot of stuff
for granted. Janice M. Sellers
You included a hint in the photo. The license plate on the car said NJ 08. When I
finally searched - first woman to 1908 new jersey there she was.
My mother and a friend drove across the country when Hoover was president. I wish
now I had asked her more questions about the trip. She said that many of the roads
were still unpaved. They apparently stayed with relatives when they could. My
favorite of the stories she told was that she had a letter of introduction to Hoover's
chief butler who's name was also Hoover (no relation, I don't think) When they arrived
in Washington, D.C. they drove up to the White House and my mother got out of the
car and walked up to the front door and knocked.
Imagine doing that now!! Of course now people couldn't get anywhere that close. Of
course I am writing this on the day that the news is that Obama gets locked out of the
White House. Milene Rawlinson
Just being exposed to the weather for that much would be horrific! You go girls!
Crocker was a mechanic. Alice Ramsey did all the fixing herself. I think, she deserves a
separate category, in which she might end up the first person. Alex Sissoev
My first guess was based on the questions and the 1905-1910-era car: I googled "first
woman cross country auto trip". I was lucky. The first hit contained a wealth of info,
and the 7th (www.affw.org ) had your photo in it. Collier Smith
Google advanced search is my favorite tool, so here's how I found good results, in only
in "all these words" just the date of the license plate: 1908. They were issued yearly
Photo made it obvious that the woman drove somewhere (ya think!?); and you said she
was the first. So, under "exact phrase," I used "first woman to drive" because it didn't
matter _where_ she drove, just that in 1908 she was the first.
Results were gratifying. Marjorie Wilser
By the way, I have no interest in automotive matters and knew nothing of this woman
but the forensics were a snip. Richard Wakeham
For this week's quiz: I have been a member of AAA since 1961 and my Dad before
that: Auto services include battery jumps, towing and locked doors. Their travel offices
provide free maps and travel agents. Back in 1909 the 4 ladies had to rely on their own
resourcefulness and local hospitality to make the journey cross country. Going forward
in time: roadhouses, auto courts and motels were built to accomodate travelers. Today
such chains as Motel 6, Best Western and Super 8, accomodate cross country
highway travelers. Mike Dalton
I have to crowd in time to do my motorcycle trips and take genealogy cemetery photos
along the way. I have been working with FindAGrave.com and taking other peoples'
cemetery photos is a great excuse to ride! I don't, however, want to ride the bike
'cross country!! Kitty Huddleston
The minute I saw the picture I had a feeling she had driven across the country! I love
that she was a married women but still needed "chaperoning" - ha,ha!!
Elaine C. Hebert
My guess was partly good luck and partly the following reasoning: "woman + old car +
'first' = ? " I figured it wouldn't likely be "first trip to grocery store" or "repaired first
flat tire", so I took a stab at something a bit more significant.
BTW, closer examination showed me that the Smithsonian site also has your photo on it.
Re long trips, as a genealogy and history buff, I am continually impressed by the cross-
country trips made by my (& prob. your) ancestors in the 1700-1800s, in my case
going from Virginia to Kentucky to Dallas, for instance, and from Virginia to Georgia
and Alabama long before there were even good roads, much less railroads.
I am fairly good at mysteries usually - I love them. I had looked at the license plate and
the car trying to place the year it came out. I did see NJ (New Jersey). What threw me
was that I had found a link to Amelia Earhart and New Jersey and the woman was not
clothed in the "typical" female attire of the time. So, I was thinking "masculine" and
airplanes and Amelia Earhart came to mind. But cars are masculine too and in all
honesty I had never heard of the woman in the clue before now. Cynthia Costigan
This puzzle reminded me of a book I read last year. I highly recommend it. Bold Spirit :
Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across America . A Great story, but the real story is the
researcher who wrote it. An enormous amount of research was necessary to put the
story of Helga back together. I bet you would like the research aspect of the book.
Sorry. The librarian in me can't miss a chance to recommend a book. Mary Osmar
Mary Anderson [inventor of the windshield wiper] would have made a good quiz
subject - had no idea how many things were invented by women back then. Let alone
something for an automobile. So it was not a waste of time to read the tidbits even if
Alice did not actually 'invent' anything and she never showed up once on an inventors'
I don't think even now I would relish the thought of driving across the country so it
was absolutely a feat to do so - kudos to Alice and her friends. She looked so happy in
the photo, too. :) Nicole Blank
On June 9, 1909, in a rain drenched New York City,
a crowd of wet photographers gathered at 1930
Broadway to snap pictures of an “automobile” and
the four poncho-cloaked women within. The car
itself was a dark-green, four-cylinder, 30-
horsepower 1909 Maxwell DA, a touring car with
two bench seats and a removable pantasote roof. But
the cameras focused particular attention on the
woman in the driver’s seat, 22-year-old Alice
Ramsey. Just over five feet tall, with dark hair below
her rubber helmet and visor, she posed until she
could stand it no more; then she kissed her husband
goodbye and cranked the motor to start the car’s
engine. Off the Maxwell drove with a clank of tire
|I was convinced the woman was Mary Anderson, the windshield wiper
inventor, but I didn't think the photo looked enough like her so I typed in
'"new jersey" woman automobile inventor' since it was a NJ plate and I got
Alice Huyler Ramsey, the first woman to cross the U.S. from coast to
coast in a car. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Huyler_Ramsey.
Alice Huyler Ramsey was the first woman
to drive across the United States from
coast to coast.
Ramsey was born Alice Taylor Huyler, the
daughter of John Edwin Huyler, a lumber
dealer, and Ada Mumford Farr. She
graduated from Vassar College in 1907. On
June 9, 1909, the 22-year-old housewife
and mother from Hackensack, New Jersey
began a 3,800-mile journey from Hell's
Gate in Manhattan, New York to San
Francisco, California in a green Maxwell 30. On her 59-day trek she was accompanied
by two older sisters-in-law and another female friend, none of whom could drive a car.
They arrived amid great fanfare on August 10.
The drive was originally meant as a publicity stunt for Maxwell-Briscoe, the carmaker.
At that time, women were not encouraged to drive cars. The group of women used
maps from the American Automobile Association to make the journey. Only 152 of the
3,600 miles the group traveled were paved. Over the course of the drive, Ramsey
changed 11 tires, cleaned the spark plugs, repaired a broken brake pedal and had to
sleep in the car when it was stuck in mud.
Along the way, they crossed the trail of a manhunt for a killer in Nebraska, a case of
bedbugs Ramsey received from a Wyoming hotel, and in Nevada they were surrounded
by a Native American hunting party with bows and arrows drawn. In San Francisco,
crowds awaited them at the St. James Hotel. Ramsey was named the "Woman Motorist
of the Century" by AAA in 1960. In later years, she lived in Covina, California, where in
1961 she wrote and published the story of her journey, Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron.
Between 1909 and 1975, Ramsey drove across the country more than 30 times. She
was married to congressman John R. Ramsey of Hackensack, New Jersey, with whom
|Tuesday is the 100th anniversary of a landmark travel feat in
American history: It was the beginning of a journey that marked the
first time a woman crossed America behind the wheel of a car.
A century ago, it was thought that driving a car required manly
virtues, including sound judgment and thoughtful decision-making --
sort of like voting.
More than a decade before women got the right to vote, Alice Huyler
Ramsey proved to the world that a woman had the necessary virtues,
driving from New York to San Francisco. At a 1908 rally on Long
Island, a Maxwell Automotive company executive had called the
21-year-old Vassar graduate and New Jersey homemaker "the
greatest natural woman driver I've ever seen." He wanted to know
whether Ramsey would like to drive the company's new
30-horsepower, four-cylinder Maxwell across the country to prove
that the car could make it and that a female motorist could do it. This
open-air touring car seated four and could reach a top speed of 40
Ride along on the page in 1909 and online in 2009
"Alice's Drive," an annotated 2005 edition of Alice Huyler Ramsey's
1961 autobiography including an account of her 1909 trip, originally
published as "Veil, Duster and Tire Iron," can be ordered online at
www.patricepress.com. Click on the "Antique Automobiles" link.
Paperback: $19.95 plus shipping and handling, payable by check, Visa
To commemorate Ramsey's cross-country drive, Emily Anderson of
Seattle will retrace the route in a 1909 Maxwell rebuilt by her father,
Richard Anderson. The trip is to begin Tuesday. To track the
journey, go to www.aliceramsey.org and click on the map marked
She would. And did. It took 59 days, a dozen flat tires and multiple
mechanical breakdowns, but Ramsey's journey -- shared with three
passengers, not one a man, two of them her sisters-in-law and none
of them able to drive -- would later make her the first woman
inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, now in Dearborn, Mich.
The Automobile Assn. of America (today's AAA) chose her in 1960
as the "woman motorist of the century."
was married to congressman John R.
Ramsey of Hackensack, New Jersey, with
whom she had two children, John
Rathbone Ramsey, Jr. (1907-2000) and
Alice Valleau Ramsey (1910- ), who
married Robert Stewart Bruns (1906-1981).
On October 17, 2000, she became the first
woman inducted into the Automotive Hall
of Fame. Alice Huyler Ramsey died on
September 10, 1983 in Covina, California.
her “conservative” sisters-in-law, both in
their 40s; and Hermine Jahns, an
enthusiastic 16-year-old friend. Ramsey
and her three passengers had to learn the
basics of car safety, wear hats and
goggles, and cover their long dresses with
dusters to protect themselves from dirt and
dust. They spent nights at hotels and ate
restaurant food and much-appreciated
home-cooked meals, when possible; at
other times, they picnicked on bread or,
during one early morning stop in Utah, a
process that required the driver and her
seatmate to leave the car, remove the
front seat cushion, and stick a ruler into
the Maxwell’s specially fitted 20-gallon
fuel tank. The next day, moving through
mud in low gear overworked the car, and
the transmission needed water. There was
no extra on board, so Powell and Atwood
proved their mettle by using their
toothbrush and toiletries holders—made
of cut-glass and sterling silver—to
transport water ounce by ounce from road-side ditches to the radiator.
Perhaps certain car problems were unavoidable. After all, the trip put the Maxwell to
the test for long days on difficult roads. Iowa’s weather posed particular challenges.
There was “no gumbo too thick” for the Maxwell, said its manufacturers, but some
potholed, muddy roads proved practically impassable for the tread-less tires. It was
slow-moving and, in one case, no-moving: the women slept beside an overflowed creek
until the water receded enough that they could ford it. They persevered through the
region, taking 13 days to conquer 360 miles (and relying on horses for towing at
Because the automobile industry was yet in its infancy, America’s roads were not yet
designed for long-distance driving. For navigation, Ramsey relied on the Blue Book
series of automotive guides, which gave directions using landmarks. But sometimes the
route changed faster than the books. The women struggled to find a “yellow house and
barn” at which they were supposed to turn left; a horse-loyal farmer had deliberately
foiled drivers by repainting in green. Worse, there were no books for regions west of
the Mississippi River. The Maxwell took worn routes, at crossroads following the
telegraph poles “with the greatest number of wires,” according to Ramsey. On certain
days, the Maxwell-Briscoe Company hired pilot cars familiar with the area to lead them.
Even so, the party sometimes hit a dead
end at a mine or sandpit and had to
backtrack for miles.
Beyond the physical triumph of survival,
pride also came from the public’s
enthusiastic support. Locals rode horses
for miles and waited by roadsides for
hours to catch a glimpse of the Ramsey
team. Ramsey recalled a Western Union
telegraph boy in Chicago who stared
“dumbfounded” at the women. Though it
was not typical to see females travel short
distances, a cross-country trip had been tried only a handful of times and never
accomplished. Only six years had passed since Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson’s 1903
drive marked the first male cross-country success.
●1902 Mary Anderson invented the first windshield wiper after riding a New York City
Street car. Before that, people smeared a mixture of onions and carrots on windshields
to repel water.
●By 1910, 5% of licensed drivers were woman.
●The 1912 invention of Charles Kettering's self-starter did away with the necessity of
crank starting a car. This arduous and often dangerous task had deterred many women
(and no doubt, numerous men) from driving.
●In 1915 Wilma Russey became the first woman to work as a taxi driver in New York
and was an expert garage mechanic.
●1916 The Girl Scouts initiated a “Automobling Badge” for which girls had to
demonstrate driving skill, auto mechanics, and first aid skills.
|Suggested by Quizmaster Emeritus Stan Read.