Fun on the Fifth
In those months with five Mondays, we send out an extra email with stuff to amuse. Have a suggestion, email the Editor.
Five car hobby predictions for 2018
Hemmings Daily reviewed their list of predictions for 2017 and provided their list of predictions for 2018. One of these is “Electric cars—including classic cars with electrified drivetrains—will become more commonplace.”
Somehow, while we weren’t looking, another year passed us by. With 12 more months behind us, it’s time once again to dust off our crystal ball (Lucite, really, because the good stuff is out of our price range) and peer into the future. As cryptologist, mathematician, and computer scientist Alan Turing once observed, “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”
How women’s experience with the automobile fundamentally differs from men’s
On January 28, Hemmings Motor News published an excerpt from Katherine J. Parkin’s Women at the Wheel: A Century of Buying, Driving, and Fixing Cars. Below is a portion of that excerpt.
One need only look at the language used to describe drivers. In the nineteenth century, a professional woman who challenged gender expectations and entered a male field received a gendered title, such as “doctress” or “lawyeress.” As women took the wheel when automobiles emerged in the late 1890s, however, no new word emerged to describe them. With the introduction of mass production and the growing embrace of cars in the early 1900s, both men and women became known as “drivers.” A gender-neutral identity was possible, but instead, the language that emerged identified women with a gendered qualifier. They were “woman drivers,” “lady drivers,” or “female drivers,” with a host of pernicious assumptions surrounding them. Conversely, we see no deployment of terms such as “man drivers,” “gentleman drivers,” or “male drivers.” Even in countless newspaper and magazine accounts of men causing automobile accidents, the gender qualifier did not appear. While the novelty of women driving dissipated over time, the desire to delineate who was driving and demean women with these monikers persisted into the twenty-first century.
Contemporaries of the first women to drive cars generally did not consider their actions significant, or even positive. More than a dozen men laid claim to being the inventor of the American automobile, dating to 1893, and countless more sought acknowledgment as the first to break driving records for speed and distance. Before the emergence of the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s, however, few women celebrated their vehicular accomplishments as the first American woman to drive a car, be licensed, or drive long distances. While some have imagined the role of cars as transformative, in truth cars only offered women “a wider range of possibility in their everyday lives.”
Indeed, it was a man who made one of the earliest claims of a woman behind the wheel. Automobile inventor and manufacturer Elwood Haynes proclaimed that his secretary, Mary Landon, had been the first woman ever to drive, in 1899. Businessmen like Haynes needed to grow the number of drivers nationally; into the 1920s, only a small percentage of women drove. His story line was clear: Driving is so easy and safe that even women have historically done it, and he either resurrected or created a story about Landon’s adventure. Highlighting Landon in 1928, though, also revealed how short-lived her automotive independence was, as she no longer drove and had not even owned a car for twenty years.
Manufacturers sought out women drivers in the early twentieth century by assuring them that their cars were easy to drive and reliable. This 1904 Haynes ad drew on the popularity of a vaudeville performer to explain why a woman would need a vehicle to take her “far from home and count on getting back without trouble.”