On This Day
1909 – Alice Huyler Ramsey and three friends become the first women to complete a transcontinental auto trip, taking 59 days to travel from New York, New York to San Francisco, California.
Alice Huyler Ramsey (November 11, 1886 – September 10, 1983) was the first woman to drive across the United States from coast to coast on August 7th 1909.
Ramsey was born Alice Taylor Huyler, the daughter of John Edwin Huyler, a lumber dealer, and Ada Mumford Farr. She attended Vassar College from 1903–1905. On January 10, 1906, in Hackensack, New Jersey, Ramsey married congressman John R. Ramsey (1862-1933), with whom she had two children: John Rathbone Ramsey, Jr. (1907–2000) and Alice Valleau Ramsey (1910–2015), who married Robert Stewart Bruns (1906–1981).
In 1908 her husband bought her a new Maxwell runabout. She was an avid driver, and in September 1908 she drove one of the three Maxwells which were entered in that year’s American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Montauk Point endurance race, being one of only two women to participate. One of the other Maxwell drivers was Carl Kelsey, who did publicity for Maxwell-Briscoe. It was during this event that Kelsey proposed that she attempt a transcontinental journey, with Maxwell-Briscoe’s backing. The company would supply a 1909 touring car for the journey, and would also provide assistance and parts as needed. The drive was originally meant as a publicity stunt for Maxwell-Briscoe, and would also prove to be part of Maxwell’s ongoing strategy of specifically marketing to women. At that time, women were not often encouraged to drive cars.
On June 9, 1909, this 22-year-old housewife and mother began a 3,800-mile journey from Hell Gate in Manhattan, New York, to San Francisco, California, in a green Maxwell 30. On her 59-day trek she was accompanied by two older sisters-in-law and 19 year-old friend Hermine Jahns, none of whom could drive a car. They arrived amid great fanfare on August 7, although about three weeks later than originally planned.
The group of women used maps from the American Automobile Association to make the journey. Only 152 of the 3,600 miles (244 of the 5,767 kilometers) that the group traveled were paved. Over the course of the drive, Ramsey changed 11 tires, cleaned the spark plugs, repaired a broken brake pedal and had to sleep in the car when it was stuck in mud. The women mostly navigated by using telephone poles, following the poles with more wires in hopes that they would lead to a town.
Along the way, they crossed the trail of a manhunt for a killer in Nebraska, Ramsey received a case of bedbugs from a Wyoming hotel, and in Nevada they were surrounded by a Native American hunting party with bows and arrows drawn. In San Francisco, crowds awaited them at the St. James Hotel. Ramsey was named the “Woman Motorist of the Century” by AAA in 1960. In later years, she lived in West Covina, California, where in 1961 she wrote and published the story of her journey, Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron. Between 1909 and 1975, Ramsey drove across the country more than 30 times.
After her husband’s death in 1933, Ramsey lived with Anna Graham Harris in New Jersey and then California until Anna’s death in 1953, and then with Elizabeth Elliott from 1968 until Ramsey’s death on September 10, 1983, in Covina, California.
On October 17, 2000, Ramsey became the first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
Born On This Day
1933 – Elinor Ostrom, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2012)
Elinor Claire “Lin” Ostrom (née Awan; August 7, 1933 – June 12, 2012) was an American political economist whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy. In 2009, she was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson. To date, she remains the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.
After graduating with a B.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA, Ostrom lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and served on the faculty of Indiana University, with a late-career affiliation with Arizona State University. She was Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as research professor and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe. She was a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID. Beginning in 2008, she and her husband Vincent Ostrom advised the journal Transnational Corporations Review.
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