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Women & Wheels
New Exhibit at San Diego Automotive Museum


Alice Ramsey, her crew and her Maxwell

Before there were paved highways that laced the nation, gas pumps on every corner, and "maintenance free" automobiles, there was a woman named Alice Ramsey.

In 1909 Ramsey drove across the county some 3,800 miles from New York to San Francisco -- long before many females even fathomed driving. The trip entailed pushing the car through flooded and muddy dirt roads, fixing a cracked distributor with chewing gum, and using bailing wire from the roadside to keep the front wheels together. Alice's intrepid spirit, along with all female influence on the automotive industry, is examined in the newest special showing at the San Diego Automotive Museum opening June 1, 2002.

Women and Wheels will run through September 22, featuring a 1911 Maxwell (the same marque Alice drove), a 1907 Thomas Flyer touring car, a 1916 Saxon Roadster (depicting the automobile's key role in advancing the suffrage movement), a 1957 Cadillac Biarritz (representative of the glitzy 50s Motorama shows and cars as an accessory for women), and many more.

The exhibit provides an overview of women's myriad relationships with the automobile including the farm trucks that first escorted farm wives to (relative) freedom, and the early electric vehicles that were appealing to women. Female roles behind the wheel during World War I are also examined, as well as their roles in subsequent years - whether working under the hood or posing atop it! Increasingly gaining purchasing power and becoming a marketing target for automotive corporations, the escalation of women becomes apparent --- and is another topic up for study during this special exhibition combining displays, costumes, photographs, vintage advertising art, and of course the unique and varied automobiles that have influenced --or been influenced by -- the feminine consumer and driver.

The San Diego Automotive Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm in Balboa Park. Admission $7 for adults, $6 active military with ID and seniors, $3 for kids 6 to 15 and children under 6 are free. For more information, phone 619/231-AUTO or visit

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