International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th, and March is Women’s History Month. Some of the innovators and pioneers in the transportation field include these women whose names deserve to be remembered every month of the year.
Alice Huyler Ramsey
In 1909, the then-22-year-old Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the U.S. in an automobile, crossing a distance of 3,800 miles in 59 days. Plagued by car troubles and navigational woes, Ramsey and her three female passengers traveled at a maximum speed of 42 miles per hour.
Born in Kentucky, Willa Beatrice Brown earned her master’s degree and originally planned to become a social worker. Instead she learned how to fly and went back to school to earn a Masters Mechanic Certificate. In 1937, Brown became the first African-American woman to earn her commercial pilot’s license.
During the Second World War, Brown worked as an administrator of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. She trained many of the pilots who would become the Tuskegee Airmen. Brown was made a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol, the first African-American woman to be made an officer in that organization. She paved the way for greater racial and gender integration of the U.S. Air Force.
Rother and her daughter fled Nazi-occupied France, living in a North African refugee camp before coming to the U.S. The strong-willed single mother worked as an artist for Marvel Comics before moving to Detroit. In 1947, she found work as the first woman to design cars. Her work made the Nash brand synonymous with luxury.
The native of Columbus, Ohio became the first woman to fly solo around the world, completing her 29-day journey on April 17, 1964. No woman had seriously attempted this feat since the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. The Federal Aviation Authority honored Geraldine Mock with its Gold Medal for Exceptional Service, and she would go on to set additional speed and distance records.
Although the women of NASA’s Mercury 13 team had all physically and psychologically qualified to be astronauts along with their male Mercury 7 colleagues, none of them were ever chosen to go into space. The distinction of being the first U.S. woman in space went to Dr. Sally Ride, a physicist from Los Angeles who first left the Earth’s orbit on June 18, 1983. She returned to space again in October 1984 and June 1985.