Though cars seem like a man’s hobby, countless women have innovated the industry. We want to celebrate International Women’s Day by recognizing some of these women and their devotion.
Margaret A. Wilcox
She is the person you should thank every time you get into your car this time of year. This woman was one of the few female mechanical engineers in the late 1800’s. She could direct warm air over the engines and back into the car so riders and passengers could be warm on their winter drives. This 1893 invention is the basis for today’s modern heating system.
Have you ever noticed that car windows don’t have a glare? Well, she created those windows. Physicist and General Electric chemist, Katharine Blodgett, created an “invisible” glass surface known today as non-reflective windows. Apart from this accomplishment, Dr. Blodgett was also the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cambridge.
Have you ever heard of the expression, “behind every successful man is a woman?” This is a great example. Wife to Karl Benz, designer of the “first practical automobile,” Bertha Benz is the reason for its success. After their marriage, she invested her entire dowry into his company. Once he registered his patent, the public was skeptical about purchasing their first motorized vehicle. Bertha knew that they would be impressed if they only knew what the car could do. She took her two teenage sons on a road trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim, and afterward, the company became wildly successful. Bertha Benz is considered to be a trailblazer and possibly the best PR agent in history. Her long-distance drive was the first of its kind, and it led to driving improvements like brake pads and gear shifts.
Deemed to be on the six “Damsels of Design” on General Motors’ team in the 1950s, Suzanne created several important automotive inventions we use today. She is credited with retractable seat belts, glove boxes, inflatable seatbacks, a safety switch for automotive panels, and a motorcycle helmet design.
Mary Anderson and Charlotte Bridgwood
When people were steering trolleys, there was no such thing as windshield wipers. Drivers had to get out of their vehicles to wipe their windshields manually. Mary Anderson designed the first manual lever to turn on a wiper from inside the car. Charlotte Bridgwood kicked this up a notch and patented the first electronic windshield wipers in 1917. Thanks to these women, we can drive safely in the rain!
Thanks for looking in the rearview mirror with us. These women show that nothing is impossible if you are determined. Share this article with any future female engineers to let them know anything is possible!