New Automobile Museum Exhibit Celebrates First Female to Drive Across The U.S.
One hundred years ago, long before anyone had ever dreamed of a Women's Liberation movement, 22-year-old Alice Ramsey, climbed into a 1909 Maxwell Model DA — 30 horsepower Touring Car and drove it right out of the New York City showroom and into history. She became the first female to drive across the country.
You can learn all about this spunky young woman in “On the Road with Alice Ramsey: 100 Years Ago” in the Changing Exhibits Gallery at the National Automobile Museum, The Harrah Collection, in downtown Reno from July 1 through Jan. 11, 2010.
Ramsey's father said his daughter was “born mechanical” and at school, instead of taking homemaking classes, she chose manual training. Her natural ability made driving easy and soon she was competing in against men, testing her skills driving around barrels and backing up. She did very well in competition, and after receiving a perfect score following the 150-mile Montauk Point Run, she was approached by an automobile salesman who thought having a woman drive across the nation would generate terrific publicity and ultimately sell automobiles.
The 22-year-old mother of a toddler, her 16-year-old friend Hermine Jahns and her two sisters-in-law, Nettie Powell and Margaret “Maggie” Atwood climbed into the car provided by the Maxwell-Briscoe Company on June 9, 1909, and drove off. They arrived in San Francisco on Aug. 7 to cheering crowds after 11 flat tires, mechanical mishaps and an encounter with a dozen Indians on horseback who were hunting jackrabbits. Their trek through Nevada took them through Ely, Eureka, Fallon, Hazen, Fernley, Wadsworth, Sparks and Reno. They were pleased to see the lights of Sparks, indicating electricity, and a sign they were returning to civilization. It was nearly midnight when they reached the Riverside Hotel in Reno. “Maxwellites” were on hand to greet them and escort them on their final map to the Golden Gate.
The National Automobile Museum at 10 S. Lake St. in downtown Reno is open Mon. – Sat. from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $4 for children 6 to 18 years. Children age 5 and younger are free. Parking is free. For more information, call (775) 333-9300 or visit www.automuseum.org.