POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—One hundred years ago, on June 9, 1909, 22-year-old Alice Huyler Ramsey, a Vassar alumna and young mother, set out in her Maxwell DA on an epic 59-day motorcar journey (41 actual driving days) from New York City to San Francisco, along with three female companions. The only one of the four who could drive, Ramsey became the first woman to successfully drive coast-to-coast across America.
One hundred years later, on June 9, 2009, Ramsey's journey will be re-created by 34-year-old Emily Anderson, who will embark from the very same location that Ramsey began her trip, 1930 Broadway in Manhattan, in a Maxwell DA that Anderson and her father have rebuilt from scratch.
On that first day of what Emily Anderson has dubbed "Alice's Drive" (http://aliceramsey.org/), one of her few stops will be the Vassar campus, where they plan to arrive around 2:45pm. Vassar celebrates the adventurous spirit of alumna Alice Ramsey, who in 2005 the college enshrined as one of its most historic innovators.
About Alice's Drive
Emily Anderson will arrive at Vassar in her Maxwell DA, accompanied by a few other drivers of period automobiles who earlier in the day will have joined her on the road. The Vassar event will be among many on the cross-country tour to honor women’s accomplishments of the last century. The itinerary, which leads to the very same St. James Hotel in San Francisco where Alice Ramsey and her companions eventually arrived in 1909, is mapped out at http://aliceramsey.org/
In 2005, Emily Anderson and her father Richard, a Pacific Northwest antique car aficionado, launched their plans to re-create Alice Ramsey's legendary drive as authentically as possible: using the very automobile model Ramsey used, and venturing out 100 years to the day Ramsey embarked. When the Andersons discovered there was only one known Maxwell in existence, and that it wasn't for sale, they were left to build their Maxwell piece by piece, from automobile parts they tracked down around the world. Now complete and successfully test driven, it will travel at a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, through a vastly different America than Alice Ramsey first experienced.
About Alice Ramsey and Her Historic Drive
Alice Ramsey (1887–1983) was the president of the Women’s Motoring Club, and later recounted her history-making journey in the memoir Veil, Duster and Tire Iron (now reprinted as Alice’s Drive, Patrice Press). Ramsey had been driving less than a year when she set out on June 9, 1909 with her two sisters-in-law and a teenage friend. She had been competing in meets where drivers would practice navigating around hay bales and barrels. Her training was obviously successful, as she completed the cross-country journey in less time than the men who had attempted it before her.
In 1909, her 3,600-mile route contained just 152 miles of paved roads, forcing Ramsey and her companions to wade through flooded creeks and over rickety bridges, dodge mud and prairie dog holes, and battle steep ascents over the Rocky Mountains. Armed with a block and tackle, shovel, and towing rope, Ramsey fixed the radiator, repaired a tie rod, and changed the car’s tires 11 times before arriving in California. The Maxwell-Briscoe Company sponsored and publicized Ramsey’s 1909 cross-country trip in order to persuade the American public that cars were here to stay.
Throughout her life Alice Ramsey’s passion for driving continued, and she made at least 30 other trips across the United States. Ramsey was named “Woman Motorist of the Century” by the American Automobile Association in 1960, and the “First Lady of Automobile Travel” from the Automobile Manufacturers Association. In 2000, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Interestingly, Ramsey's husband, Congressman John Ramsey of New Jersey, never drove.
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