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Women Who Contributed To The Automotive Industry ​

International Women's Day is upon us and we want to thank all the women who have contributed in one way or another to the automotive industry. 

Dorothée Aurélie Marianne Pullinger - who sadly passed away 30 years ago - is one woman in particular that we ought to thank. She engineered a car specifically for women. The Galloway car is thought to be one of the first times a vehicle was explicitly designed with women in mind.

Back then, the automotive industry was male dominated - much like today - however, slowly but surely, stereotypes continued to change and now we are beginning to see more women carving out a successful and rewarding career within the automotive industry.

While Dorothée Aurélie is well known among enthusiasts, there are other women who deserve just as much recognition.

Below is a list of women who have, directly or indirectly, made significant contributions to the automotive industry, without them, vehicles may not be as advanced as they are.  

Muffler/ Silencer

While Milton Reeves is known to have invented the muffler/silencer, it was actually Eldorado Jones, a former teacher-turned-inventor who looked at an vehicle muffler/silencer and realized it could also work for airplanes. Her basic design was then overhauled for use in exhaust systems in piston-powered engines. She also invented a light-weight electric iron and a travel size iron board.

The First Computer Algorithm

Computer programming plays a huge part in the engineering of a car. From the factory floor to the tyre pressure systems and electronic braking systems, it’s fair to say that without computer programming we probably couldn’t enjoy most of the driver convenience systems we do today.

Let’s take a moment to remember that the very first computer programmer – who created the very first algorithm, Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron. A brilliant mathematician, she understood that numbers could be used to represent data. Lovelace found a Cambridge professor by the name of Charles Babbage and later added notes to his theoretical paper for an analytical engine – the world’s first general purpose computer – before publication in 1843. She also helped him see that a machine engineered to read numbers could also manipulate any data presented by those numbers.

Rotary Engines

Mazda 787B, well known for being the only car with a rotary engine to win the gruelling 24 hours of Le Mans. The early rotary engines were known to be extremely fussy and noisy, until Margaret Knight came along and came up with the sleeve valve, a cover for internal combustion engines that helped increase efficiency.

In the process she also successfully sued a man who stole her design and patent, which helped with lending legal credibility to women inventors from then on.

Mazda 787B - The only car with a rotary engine to win Group C at Le Mans 24 Hours

Residential Solar Heating

Dr. Maria Telkes was well known for inventing many solar powered technologies until her death in 1996. She was responsible for building the first solar-heated house back in 1947. Of course, this technology has been tested in cars. Further tests are also being carried out on gizmos that will store solar energy in cars and use it on demand for defrosting windows.

The Car Heater

Where would be without the humble car heater?

The first one redirected hot air from over the engine bay to warm the chilly toes of upper-class 19th-century motorists was invented by Margaret A. Wilcox in 1893.

She also invented a combined clothes and dish washer- not sure how that works!

windscreen wipers
Modern day windscreen wipers - adapted from Mary Anderson's design

Windscreen wipers

Motorists were sceptical when Mary Anderson invented the first l windscreen wipers in 1903. They actually thought it was safer to driver with rain and snow obscuring the windscreen than it was to pull some levers to clear it. However it was another woman by the name of Charlotte Bridgwood, who invented the automatic version with an electric roller, which didn’t take off very well either.

No one appreciates the windscreen wipers more than a motorist who lives in the UK, with an average year containing what seems like 365 rainy days.

Thank you to these extraordinary women who have given so much over the years!