History of Cars and Women
Were you aware that March is Women’s History month? We are, and are here to help celebrate the month with some of the great moments in car history involving women. Check out some of the stories below and you’ll be sure to win your next trivia night with these little-known facts about women and cars.
The Windshield Wiper
In 1903, the windshield wiper was invented by a woman, Mary Anderson, after a trolley ride in New York City on a bad weather day. After seeing the trolley driver struggle with visibility due to freezing rain, Anderson began sketching her prototype right on the trolley.
According to the History Channel, she filed and received a patent for the product in November of 1902, however, she never profited from the invention because her patent expired before anyone used the idea. At the time, the idea was not well-received, because many thought the movement of the wiper would distract the drive of the vehicle. In fact, Anderson tried to sell her patent to a manufacturing firm, but the firm declined, stating that the device had no practical value and wasn’t worth any money.
At the time, front windows were designed for bad weather visibility by being split into parts. The driver was able to open the different sections of the window and move them, so that the section covered by rain or snow would not be in their line of vision. But that method would expose the drivers face as well as passengers, and let the bad weather into the car or trolley. In addition, having a driver stick their face out of the window into inclement weather didn’t help visibility much. A second option to clear the window was to manually clear it after pulling over.
Anderson’s original design was a set of arms that were made of wood and rubber, which could be removed and stored until the next year or bad weather day. These arms attached to a lever near the steering wheel, and when the driver pulled the lever, the spring-loaded arm would drag across the window and back again, clearing rain, snow and debris.
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The Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang is a car that may evoke visions of men driving the muscle car, but in fact, in 1964, when Ford released the classic car, it was intended for women. It was the first car Ford marketed directly to them, and as part of the initial advertising campaign, the company put ads in the “women’s” section of 2,600 newspapers. The various ads declared the Mustang as the “sweetheart of the supermarket set,” and targeted both mothers and single women.
The focus on women buyers was due to the post-World War II economy, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Working women had purchasing power, and dual incomes meant that families were purchasing second or third cars.
Their marketing tactic seemed to have worked. The first person to purchase a Mustang was Gail Brown, a 22-year-old schoolteacher from Chicago, for $3,419. As of 2014, she still had the car. The popularity of the Mustang for women in the 60s has carried through to today. It remains the most popular sports car for American women today. 36% of sports car purchases by women this year were Mustangs.