Amazing and repellent as it may sound, there are still societies on this planet that place severe restrictions on the ability of women to participate in them, including limits on their right to drive a motor vehicle. Happily, the United States is well ahead of those places when it comes to the emancipation of women. Next year, 2020, will mark 100 years since American women were granted the right to vote. To commemorate that pivotal event, the Saratoga Automobile Museum in eastern upstate New York is recognizing the exploits of six pioneering women automobilists, as they used to be called, who were among the very first to drive a car in this country.
This view shows the exhibition in the museum, itself a historic structure that once was a plant that bottled Saratoga Springs’ famed curative waters. The women being honored include the thespians Izetta Jewel Kenney Brown Miller and Hazel May Jewel Kenney Godwin Horne, an early female physician who drove to house calls, Dr. Elizabeth Van Rensselaer Gillette; the early racing driver and Good Roads Movement activist Joan Newton Cuneo; the transcontinental motoring pioneer Alice Taylor Huyler Ramsey; Blanche Stuart Scott, who drove a Willys-Overland across the country in 1910 and may have been this country’s first female aviator; and Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Davis Walker, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, an early African American hair-care entrepreneur whose fleet of cars included an Indianapolis-built Waverly electric. The museum is off U.S. 9 in Saratoga Spa State Park, about three hours north of New York City.