American Studies •  Gender Studies •  History and Women

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Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age

Virginia Scharff

The twentieth-century rise of the automobile collided head on with Victorian prescriptions for the proper role and place of women in society. Gender conventions cast women as too weak, dependent, and flighty to manage the fiery motored beast. Overcoming that stereotype was as difficult for women as gaining access to the vote, the professions, and education, yet their personal feats of driving in both war and peace demolished the gender barriers against their taking the road. After women proved once and for all that they could drive under the worst conditions in World War I, they adapted the automobile to their domestic roles in urban society during the 1920s. Written with flair and verve, this volume displays Scharff's erudition in social, cultural, gender, and technological history.


Virginia Scharff is professor of history at the University of New Mexico.


"If I had my way, I'd make Scharff's book compulsory reading for every Detroit executive."


The Women's Review of Books

"Ms. Scharff is to be congratulated for her spellbinding contribution to the evolving literature of automotive anthropology."


New York Times Book Review

"Scharff's book...reads like an entertaining series of essays."


The Nation

6 x 9.25 in. 236 pages 16 halftones