the woman and the car

Off to Winterport, Maine c1910 in a flivver

Toronto. Even as a youth, I looked to my father as the car driver, owner, and mechanic. Mom never learned how to drive – it was considered unladylike.  It was a male oriented world. A woman who drove a car even mid last century was a rarity – and one who repaired an automobile even more so!

In 1909, a company in London England (and New York, USA) called the John Lane Company, published the ‘motoring’ text you see below, especially written for women. The little volume is “illustrated by photographs specially taken … by Mr. Horace W. Nicholls”. Amongst my stuff was a wallet-sized paper print as shown above. A quartet was on their way by automobile to Winterport when one stepped out to photograph the event. Two things struck me: the driver shown was a woman; and my print was reversed (I corrected this electronically as well as adding some contrast).

The illustration below is from the book (including the photograph by Foulsham & Banfield, Ltd.). The bool was discovered and shared with me by my good friend George Dunbar. The photo was chosen by the author, Ms Dorothy Levitt who lived her life in the UK and often went to Europe. In her book, she recommends a one cylinder, 8 horse power, De Dion motor car and explains why. I was surprised at how many things were considered accessories back then and not sold as part of the vehicle.

You can read the book here or even download it for free, but please note the following statement – “This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at

A century ago automobiles were an adventure. You didn’t just hop in and drive away, you had to learn how to start, maintain and drive the beastly machines. Not for the faint of heart!

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