Reinventing the wheel: American women and the automobile in the early car culture.
AuthorScharff, Virginia Joy.
KeywordsWomen automobile drivers -- United States.
Automobiles -- Social aspects -- United States.
Women in popular culture -- United States.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the interplay between gender ideology, women's actions, and automotive technology in the United States from the beginning of the automotive era through the 1920's. Looking at cultural ideology as a strong yet fragmented and malleable historical force, I have analyzed the effect of popular conceptions of masculinity and femininity on the design, marketing, and use of automobiles. At the same time, I have attempted to show how motorcars, often employed as vehicles of social ideals, promoted some reinterpretation of men's and women's proper roles and places. The auto indeed served as a focus for discourse about the contingent relation between social and political emancipation. While some observers expected the automobile to liberate women from domesticity and subordination, others insisted on the congruence between automobility and domestic life. Though some women would use cars as tools of social or political nonconformity, the auto ultimately transformed and extended women's spatial and temporal province, while preserving the home as the ideal hub of women's activities. Still, the car culture revision of gender ideology had profound consequences for the way the private family car would emerge as a primary transportation mode, facilitating new manners and morals, new commercial and political possibilities, and a revolution in urban development.