Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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We've discussed women on the Titanic smoking, but along the same lines, I'd be interested in knowing which Titanic women would have been driving themselves around in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Everyone knows Dorothy Gibson did, and that Edith Pears drove an ambulance during World War I. I BELIEVE Mrs Emily Ryerson was behind the wheel by the 1920's. I know that Stewardess Violet Jessop took up driving in her later years (bought herself a second-hand Morris Minor)and that, according to Judith Geller, Winnie Trout was still driving her red Ford Pinto well into old age.

We can assume that most women who were children on the Titanic and came to adulthood later would have driven (Eva Hart and Gertrude Asplund both drove), but I'd be interested in knowing of those women who drove when cars were still a relative novelty, as opposed to women such as Mrs Rothschild and Lady Duff Gordon who apparently(though someone around here could probably correct me if I'm wrong) always hired chauffeurs for their cars.

Can any of our more formidable Titanic scholars think of any ladies who climbed into the driver's seat early on?
-Brian Ahern
 
J

John Meeks

Guest
I really have no idea, and this is just a hunch, but - I'd be damned surprised if Molly Brown hadn't thrown herself behind a steering wheel, a time or two!

Bet it wasn't a Model 'T', though...! And I'd hate to 'jaywalk' in her path !

Regards,

John M
 

Pat Winship

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May 14, 1999
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I recall seeing an article in one of the New York papers to the effect that Madeline Astor had been stopped for speeding! Just went and tried to locate it in the New York Times index, but could not. I'll try again later.

Pat W.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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It's true Lady Duff Gordon did not drive - except from the BACKSEAT of her Rolls,Renault or whichever car was the "hit" of the moment. Her chauffer was a poor, long suffering bloke named Charles who on a "motoring jaunt" in France was once instructed by his formidable and adventurous employer to run through a guard gate rather than pay the toll fee. "Just knock the stupd man's pole aside, Charles," her Ladyship directed from her cocoon of sable and Vuitton,"I am SURE we can make it." Charles, being the good man he was, prudently - and bravely - ignored Milady's decree.

That said, Lady Duff Gordon adored "automobiling" and in fact designed interiors for the Chalmers 1917 Model Town Cars,Touring Sedans and Limousines. As sales were naturally geared to society ladies, "Lucile" saw to it that they were equipped with a mirrored vanity case and a smoking set that would spring out at the press of a button. The cars had plush curtains and pillows of eiderdown and silk!

Later she even wrote a series of articles about her love of luxury cars for "Motor Magazine" in which she insisted that every fashionable man or woman must have at least THREE cars "to be in the game!"
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Thanks to all those who replied. Especially to you, Randy, for the anecdotes on Lady Duff Gordon. I guess she wouldn't have been too impressed with me with my cautious driving and my second-hand Ford Explorer!

And Pat, whenever, you can dig up that article...
Thanks again,
Brian
 

Brian Ahern

Member
Dec 19, 2002
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Since the issue of women smoking has been revived, does anyone have any further info on the subject of Titanic ladies driving?

Pat W, if you're still out there, did you ever find that news blip on Madeleine Astor being stopped for speeding?

-Brian Ahern
 

Brian Meister

Member
Mar 19, 1999
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Brian and all,

Several years ago, I had the unique exper-
ience of talking with an older gentleman who
sold all of the automobiles to the Madill
family in St Louis. It appears the ladies
were both drivers,and some of the details of
their prowess will appear in a work soon to
come!
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Brian - I assume you mean Georgette and her mother? Not Elizabeth Allen?

It's funny you should mention that family because my mother's from St Louis and knew Georgette growing up. Her best friend was a relative of Georgette's. All of the children were forbidden to mention the Titanic around Georgette - she and her mother would get extremely upset when they did. My mother's friend recalled recently that she once brought it up around them and got into a lot of trouble afterwards from her parents.

Excuse my tangent...
-Brian A.
 

Pat Winship

Member
May 14, 1999
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I finally found the newspaper reference to Madeline Astor driving.

"Mrs. John Jacob Astor Near Arrest"

Ran Her Auto in Jersey More Than 15 Days Without State License

Trenton, N.J. Oct. 23-- A New Jersey automobile license was this afternoon issued to Mrs. Madeline Force Astor, the young widow of Col. John Jacob Astor, who went down with the Titanic. Mrs. Astor makes her Summer home in Bernardsville, this State, and, according to a report filed with the State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, was yesterday threatened with arrest upon the charge of running her machine in New Jersey without obtaining a license here.

It was charged that she had exceeded the fifteen-day tourist privilege allowed to non-resident owners, but upon her promise to obtain a license she was permitted to go without the indignity of arrest.

New York Times October 24, 1912
 
C

Christine Geyer

Guest
I recall a picture of Molly Brown visiting the Titanic graves in Halifax with her cousins and the three women are either sitting in or standing around a car right on the cemetery. You'll probably know the photo. There was no driver in the picture. Would you think that they had a driver with them, who was just not included in the picture?

Best regards
Christine
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Pat - thanks for posting that extremely interesting article.

Christine - I do know the photo you are talking about, but it's been over a year since I checked that book out of the library. As I recalled, one of the younger ladies was behind the wheel, though from what you say I must be mistaken. I definitely had the impression (based on very little) that they were operating the car themselves.

Sorry I didn't respond sooner, but I've been remiss in logging on lately.

One more name that I think can be added to the list of lady motorists is Jean Hippach (also mentioned under the "Women Smoking" thread). Judith Gellar mentioned in her book that, when Hippach was older, her beloved dogs used to sit in the front seat of her car on their way to the ice-cream parlour.

I'm not sure why this topic interests me so much. I guess partly because, in the days when cars were still a relative novelty, firing up the engine herself would say something about the individual.

Regards to all,
Brian Ahern
 
C

Christine Geyer

Guest
No, Brian, I also have in mind the impresssion that they were driving themselves. I'll look for the picture when I'm home and come back then. In my other posting I just meant that no male driver was to be seen in the photo. To me it also looked as if they were going by themselves. I'm a bit confused at the moment, I thought previously to my first posting someone had mentioned Molly was no driver. But at a second look I cannot find it now. OMG I'm getting old...

Regards
Christine
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Certainly they were more difficult to drive. They had no synchromesh, so gear changing was quite an art and required a lot of practice. There were also levers for the adjustment of ignition timing and fuel/air mixture strength 'on the fly' to cope with changing road conditions. The very popular Ford Model T was a bit easier, but it used a three-pedal control system entirely different from the conventional arrangement. The left hand pedal engaged low gear for steep hills, the middle pedal engaged reverse and the right hand pedal was a footbrake (the accelerator control was a lever on the steering column). The manual advised that in emergencies the use of any two pedals would (eventually) bring the car to a stop.

The key invention which did most to encourage ladies to take up motoring was the self starter, which first appeared on Cadillac cars in 1912. Another essential accessory for lady drivers who were nervous about driving alone at night was (and I kid you not) an inflatable male passenger!
 
Jun 11, 2000
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I learned to drive on cars with no synchromesh - but I was only about 10 at the time. My neighbours, with a huge garden you could drive around in, had two 1940's cars (Austen 7's) which they transformed into more modern models after we toiled away for months, or years. You had to double-de-clutch, I remember, which involved listening to the engine noise. At a certain noise / point, you de-clutched and revved the engine, then whacked the gears into the change...and if you were lucky, they smoothly changed. Otherwise you stripped the gears and the car stopped. We all managed it, but it must have been a very dodgy business. However, it was long past the days of hte Ford Model T with the complex pedal system Bob describes. Dunno much about the inflatable males ....
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
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Unfortunately, Monica, the blinkered view for much of history was that mechanically competent women like yourself were a very rare breed. I have an old promotional film for Austin cars in which a pipe-smoking young man tries to explain the workings of synchromesh to a bemused female, and when the penny finally drops she exclaims with delight that with this innovation even she will be able to drive an Orstin!
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Yes. I notice, however, that the view of females as incompetent drivers rapidly fades away whenever they are really needed. Such as on the introduction of the breathalyser. Or during WW1 and WW2, when (often quite tiny) girls were put firmly behind the wheel of enormous Bedfords, fire engines, ambulances, buses, tanks etc. (with no synchro I bet) and told to drive through the Blitz, deliver them to Scotland and so forth. I recently got mesmerised by a propaganda film on TCM which followed the doings of a group of ATS girls delivering Bedfords over the course of a stormy night. It was the most stultifyingly boring film I have ever seen and I made a mental note, that if time travel does exist and I ever find myself back in WW2, I shall volunteer for one of the other handmaiden positions - like shoving angels and bandits round a map with a croupier's rake.
 

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