‘“Women Behind the Wheel”’ explains how cars became a gendered technology

Some woman wrote a history of women in cars. Terry Gross interviewed her for ‘Fresh air’ https://www.npr.org/2024/03/28/1241321758/women-behind-the-wheel-nancy-nichols-car-culture

Mistake in the narrative… Kettering’s starter was first introduced in 1912, not 1910.

Women have been driving and well as racing cars since the very first were built. And not just electrics, ICE’s and steamers.

And we have Bertha Benz, Karl’s wife who had a big hand in the creation and promotion of Benz’s Patent Motorwagen.

Bertha was 94 when she died in 1944. I heard Germany was a little unpleasant in 1944,

She didn’t say when it was first sold on a commercially available vehicle (assuming that’s what you meant by “introduced”). She said “developed.” Kettering’s actual patent was 1911, but even that was based on a patent from 1903 that Kettering’s company (the Dayton something-or-other Company - now Dayco) had purchased. I don’t know the historical details, date-wise, leading up to Cadillac’s adoption (would need to see the documentation in Nichols’ book), but it wouldn’t surprise me if 1910 was when a working model was completed. Then the patent paperwork gets filed, and then approved sometime in 1911. Then you have to get some company to buy it, as Cadillac did for the 1912 models. Specific “invention” and development dates and whatnot are usually pretty fuzzy.

The interview (as I’d imagine, the book) was pretty clear that women were relevant and in cars all along.

1 Like

Thanks for the heads-up; I’ll be sure to download the 3.28 Fresh Air podcast next time I load up my podcast player .

In 1910 Henry Leland approached Kettering to design an electric starter since his engineers at Cadillac had failed to design a practical one.

The patent was filed in June 1911 but not granted until 1915. So “developed” during 1910 to create a working system by February 1911 could be considered correct. The first cars sold to the public were 1912 Cadillacs.

And as the article says, the patent comprised a combined starter-generator-ignition system

DELCO - Dayton Electric Laboratory Company. Which was purchased by GM, spun off in 1996 and bankrupted in 2005 and the remains named Aptiv. It no longer exists as “Delco”. Dayco is a belt manufacturer not related in any way.

All I was saying is that you chose 1912. IDK why she chose 1910. But multiple dates are available. You can choose the year by the first time it was commercially available on cars if you want. But that doesn’t make 1910 a “mistake.” It was first used to actually start a Cadillac in 1911 (largely for demo / test purposes, I’d imagine). Then installed for sale in 1912. So if you want to say “developed” (rather than “introduced”), then 1910 isn’t a crazy date. I’d be willing to go with 1903.

Indeed - got my brain wires crossed b/c of the “DAYton” part. My mix-up. But it wasn’t Dayton Electric Laboratory Company. It was Dayton Engineering Laboratory Company.

I just recently listened to this podcast, pretty interesting. The content varies between women-specific car issues, and general issues with newer cars, like the safety problems associated with their increasing size, their unfriendly diy’er attributes, why younger buyers are shying away from buying their own cars, etc.

1 Like