Summer road trip, 1909 style

More than a decade before women had the right to vote in this country, Alice Ramsey became the first one to drive across it. The car was a 1909 Maxwell Model DA, given to her by Maxwell as a kind of advertising stunt with the idea that women would like the DA when they saw a woman driving it and encourage their husbands to buy one. It’s easy to misconstrue her journey as a statement about women’s rights, but Ramsey, 22 at the time and fresh out of Vassar, wasn’t exactly a suffragette. In fact she only accepted the challenge because it had already been done by a man.

Still, many people doubted she could pull it off. “Good driving has nothing to do with sex,” she said. “It’s all above the collar.” At a maximum speed of 40 mph, the roughly 3,000 mile trip took Ramsey and her copilots 41 grueling days to complete.

Now, 100 years later, Ramsey’s granddaughter, Emily Anderson, has set out on a cross country trip of her own to commemorate her grandmother’s. She and her father, Rich, enlisted the help of an antique airplane builder and metal fabricator to build a Maxwell Model DA from scratch after the owner of the only known DA in existence refused to sell. Anderson and her three copilots left New York yesterday morning during a rainstorm, the same conditions her grandmother faced a hundred years earlier, to the date.

Some things to consider about a cross country road trip in the summer in a 1909 Model DA:

  • No power steering
  • No side or rear-view mirrors
  • No seatbelts
  • No windshield (AKA a face-full of bugs)
  • No A/C

What Anderson does have are paved roads and a mileage of about 25 mpg, which is still, sadly, the average mileage of cars today.

You can follow her progress here.