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The women who transformed driving

July 11, 2022
4 mins

The motor industry is one of the most fast-moving industries out there. And we’re not talking about miles per hour. Driving has changed beyond recognition since the first car was invented, and women have played a huge part in driving that change. In fact, fundamental aspects of driving have been shaped by the ambition and innovation of remarkable women. 

So, this International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the part women have played in transforming the motor industry and driving. And, as an insurance company obsessed with making you safer, we want to pinpoint the ways they’ve helped improve road safety through product innovation.

100 years of female-led innovation 🚀

1888 - Hello brake pads 👋
Bertha Benz realises her husband’s invention “the horseless carriage” (the first car to you and me) needs some marketing buzz. She takes it on a 180km road trip - the first of its kind. Along the way, she notices the wooden brakes are looking dangerously worn down. She gets a shoemaker to fit some leather pads and brake pads are born!

1893 - Warming up the Windy City 🔥
Fed up of chilly journeys through Chicago, Margeret A. Wilcox invents the car heater and makes sure she gets the credit by forming a patent in her own name.

1903 - Rain rain go away 🌧️
After a particularly snowy journey, Mary Anderson designs the first windscreen wiper. It takes a few years for her invention to get noticed. But, by 1916, they’re a staple! And make wet-weather driving a lot safer. 

- Mr and Mrs Cox make history ✨ 
The couple become the first black founders of an insurance company, Mississippi Beneficial Life Insurance Company. 8 years later, after her husband’s death, Mrs Minnie Geddings Cox runs the business solo. 

1914 - Left, right, stop, go
Looking to improve road safety, actress Florence Lawrence creates a mechanical arm that drivers can raise to signal where they’re turning. She later creates a stop signal that responds to drivers hitting the brakes, paving the way for modern signalling.  

1921 - Which Gallo-way are you going?
Dorothée Aurélie Pullinger manages a car factory in Scotland. She adopts the Suffragette’s colours for the factory’s branding and produces a car for women - the Galloway. The Galloway is lighter than other cars and its fittings have women in mind. Think higher seats, lower dashboards and gears in the middle rather than outside of the car (so they wouldn’t get caught in their long skirts). Not only is it the first car designed by a woman for women, it’s also the first car to feature rearview mirrors as standard. 

1942 - The unsung hero of GPS📍
Austrian-born, Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr wants to help the US as they prepare to enter World War II. She puts her genius to use, helping to invent a new communication system that can stop enemy ships from jamming radio signals. Her innovation is the starting point for Wifi, GPS and Bluetooth - all things modern drivers (and non-drivers!) use every day. 

1957 - A road sign revolution 🚸
Margaret Calvert uses her design expertise to radically improve the British road sign system. She works with Jock Kinnear, creating pictograms to make road warnings clearer for drivers. Her pictograms are still used today, and Calvert’s work has been honoured with an OBE and a special exhibition at the Design Museum. 

1980 - An icon of icons 💻
Susan Kare uses her UI expertise to make Apple Macs more human. She creates memorable icons, including the humble trash can, to help people get more from their computers. Her work has long since impacted tech companies looking to make complicated things (like insurance) much simpler.

Here at Marshmallow, it’s our mission to transform insurance to make people’s lives safer. And we’ve got a lot of pioneering women (engineers, data scientists, product managers, designers, content writers, and more) helping us do just that!

Head over to our Jobs page here to find out more about their great work.