Fueled by Females: Alice Ramsey

October 8, 2015


In today’s world, , when we think of a cross-country road trip, we think of it as a vacation. However, it is important to remember those who have made sacrifices years ago by taking a long journey to help create a greater future. Alice Ramsey was one of the first woman to drive across the country, and she did so with a purpose. Quite a feat in 1909, when only 152 miles of the 3,800 miles were paved.

Alice was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1886. She married John Ramsey after two years of college. John bought Alice a car in the spring of 1908 and during that next summer Alice drove a total of 6,000 miles all around New Jersey. Impressed, Carl Kelsey of Maxwell-Briscoe Company proposed an all-expenses paid trip across the country to show the world that a Maxwell automobile could make the journey, even with a woman driving.

So, on June 9, 1909, Alice Ramsey departed from New York City with her three companions: Nettie Powell, Margaret Atwood, and Hermine Jahns. Equipped with hats, goggles and dusters, the women embarked with a basic knowledge of car safety. The trip was anything but smooth sailing for the group. While some nights they were able to sleep in hotels, other nights they ended up camping on the side waiting for an overflowed creek to calm enough for them to drive through it. Maxwell-Briscoe published the trip commenced “without a particle of car trouble”, but that was far from the truth.

Not only did the car break down often, it had to be towed by horses at times to get out of sticky situations. Imagine driving across the United States at 40mph on a backroad with a collection of misguided and complicated maps and you can glimpse the struggle that Alice and her companions encountered. They arrived exhausted and triumphant in San Francisco to an excited crowd of fans and press 59 days later. A great adventure from a great woman!



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