Celebrating women in automotive history (Pt. 3)

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NHRA drag racer w:Ashley Force in 2007.

Ashley Force Hood is a top NHRA drag racer. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Tom Lennon Collection/Wikipedia)

Let’s continue our look at female innovators, inventors and activists. This concludes a three-part article on important women in automotive history. Here’s PART 1 and PART 2.

Other random historical bits from women’s automotive history

  • In 1910, 5 percent all licensed drivers in the U.S. were women
  • In 1916, the Girl Scouts began to offer an “Automobiling Badge.” Scouts had to display skill in driving, automotive mechanics and first aid skills in order to earn the badge.
  • In 1922, Henry Ford began to employ women for assembly and welding duties at the Phoenix Mill Ford factory in Plymouth, Mich. Not exactly a feminist, Ford required female workers to be single, childless and arrayed in dresses, heels and stockings.

Women in racing: A top-10 list

The following women have contributed significantly to the field of racing, in terms of awareness, speed and heart. This is by no means a complete list, nor is it ordered in terms of significance.

Genevra Delphine Mudge – Considered the first woman to obtain a driver’s license in New York in 1898, Mudge is also believed to be the first female race car driver. She’s also reportedly the first woman to get into an auto accident.

Shirley Muldowney – One of the greatest stories in female race car driving history, Muldowney first appeared in a racing circuit in 1958. Over a 20-plus-year career, she won over 18 NHRA national events, including three NHRA Winston World Points Championships. She was the first woman to win the honor in 1977, and repeated in 1980 and 1982, making her the first driver of either sex to win three times.

A crash in 1984 sidelined her as a drag racer, but Muldowney recovered to become a force in developing female drag race drivers. In 1990, she was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, and in 2004 she joined the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Janet Guthrie– In 1977, Guthrie broke numerous records as she became the first woman to compete in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. She won Top Rookie award at Daytona that year, and went on to become a legend in auto racing, regardless of her sex. After her racing days, Guthrie worked as an aerospace engineer and flight instructor. In 2006, Guthrie entered the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

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Milka Duno – Among the most accomplished female race car drivers ever, this Venezuelan is the first female Latin American driver to be officially classified as an “expert driver.” Some of her racing accomplishments include her being the best finish by a woman at 24 Hours of Daytona; first woman to win a major international race (2004 Miami Grand Prix); and winning the Rolex series three times and placing top-10 a total of 26 times.

Danica Patrick – One of this generation’s most popular female race drivers, Patrick competes on both the NASCAR and Indy car circuits. A world-wide celebrity, she had the highest finish ever by a woman at the Indy 500 (3rd in 2009); was the 2005 Indy 500 and IndyCar series Rookie of the Year; and won the 2008 Indy Japan 300.

Ashley Force Hood – Daughter of 15-time NHRA Top Fuel Funny Car national champion John Force, Ashley Force Hood earned distinction as the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series’ Rookie of the Year (Funny Car division) in 2007. The following year, she earned her first NHRA Professional-category win, defeating her father at the NHRA Summit Southern Nationals. The victory made Ashley Force the first woman ever to earn a victory in Top Fuel Funny Car racing.


Antique Automobile Club of America

CompareAutoInsurance.com: http://www.compareautoinsurance.com/top-10-female-race-car-drivers/


Road & Travel Magazine

The Selvedge Yard: http://theselvedgeyard.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/fast-women-in-history-auto-racings-tough-female-pioneers/


  1. Butch Knouse on

    There’s plenty more, do your homework.

    • Steve Tarlow on

      Would not disagree. I encourage anyone to explore this subject. Just limited by space/time, even online – at least on this blog.