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Woman Motorists? Ain't that the Berries!
January 27, 2013 1:14 PM   Subscribe

In 1929, three young women (Edith, Dorothy, and Evelyn), ages 23 and 25, went on a three-month-long, 12,353-mile road trip. Learn more about their experience, and follow an effort to recreate the journey, at Three Months by Car.

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posted by Miko (22 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
In 1926, Helen Dore Boylston (author of the Sue Barton series of books about nursing) and Rose Wilder Lane (author and daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder), drove across Europe "from Paris to Albania" in a Model T they called Zenobia, and then they hung out and partied in Albania for the next two years or so. If this whets your appetite for womens' cross-continent driving trips from the 20s, definitely look for Travels with Zenobia, which is a collection of their letters back home about the trip.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:34 PM on January 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Considering she hasn't actually left yet--
"Feel free to let me know if you would like to be contacted when this trip does become a reality.  It would be great to gauge the interest of others in hearing me speak"
posted by Ideefixe at 2:06 PM on January 27, 2013


Considering she hasn't actually left yet--

...follow an effort to recreate the journey...

That must be what "an effort" means.

Who knew?
posted by Floydd at 2:17 PM on January 27, 2013


I gues I thought an effort mean that something other than fundraising and getting FB "likes" was going on. Don't people just do things anymore, without official notifications and sponsorship?
posted by Ideefixe at 2:47 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ideefixe: "I gues I thought an effort mean that something other than fundraising and getting FB "likes" was going on. Don't people just do things anymore, without official notifications and sponsorship?"

So, you have $6450 lying around? I don't.
posted by Samizdata at 3:07 PM on January 27, 2013


So, you have $6450 lying around? I don't.

Get a job and save your money?
posted by Mojojojo at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Don't people just do things anymore, without official notifications and sponsorship?

I'm sure they do, I know I did when I was 35 years younger. But why do that now? They've got the opportunity. We have the technology. We have the capability to recreate that journey. Better than it was before. Better...stronger...faster. With someone else to help foot the bill!
posted by Floydd at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2013


Don't people just do things anymore, without official notifications and sponsorship?

If they did, how would you know?
posted by The Whelk at 3:14 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This post is about this great adventure, but no one has left the keyboard yet. back in 1929, this was indeed a big deal, but in 2013, women drive cross country all the time. It's an okay idea but since nothing has happened, I don't quite get the feeling of excitement or accomplishment. People make it cross the US for far less than $6000+.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Please note, this trip is not currently scheduled as I am looking to secure funding for it."

So, let me get this straight.... She's wanting to raise $6k in order to do a three month road trip? Nice.....
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2013


In 1999 at age 22, I went on a three-month-long road trip with a friend of mine. Two major differences between these fine ladies' trip and ours: we didn't bother counting the miles and they didn't see Negativland play at Yo Yo a Go Go in Olympia.
posted by item at 3:35 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't people just do things anymore, without official notifications and sponsorship?

Interesting reactions. If you read the blog, you'll learn that project results from the research the writer did for her master's. She does indeed have plans to fundraise and speak on the topic (which I'd expect anyway for a newly minted academic with an interesting thesis). I saw this a few weeks ago, before there was much content on it, and didn't post it then. On checking back I thought it was pretty cool to find more detail, including thoughtful historical summaries on travel and driving at the time, with more (on food and supplies, etc) promised, with citations. I thought that perhaps some folks would enjoy learning about this at the beginning so that you can actually follow along. To me, this is a great public history project that seems to be going forward. I'm sorry that some people see it as some kind of shallow bid for dollars; personally, it looks to me like a lot more than that.

This isn't somebody I know and I have no stake in whether the trip ever happens a lot and I haven't given a dime and probably won't (it's cool, just not in my charity budget). I just liked it.

The road trip, today, is pretty banal. It's a classic thing to do, especially for Americans. I did a six-week one in 1998 which I still recall with great fondness. I can only imagine how interesting it would have been to do in the 20s, when it was still a novelty to travel long distance by car, especially for women. It's characteristic of the 20s and the intoxicaton of sudden freedom and independence for women. I look forward to reading more about it, and seeing what experiences they may have had, positive and not so, that I didn't and couldn't.
posted by Miko at 3:37 PM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would be cool if she did it in the same model car. She's asking Ford on Twitter for recommendations, so maybe the company has one tucked away somewhere. Otherwise, ehhh. YMMV.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:41 PM on January 27, 2013


Another epic, early 20th century trip recreation is also being undertaken. This one's a bit more risky.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:06 PM on January 27, 2013


In 1939 Swiss travel writer and journalist Ella K. Maillart set off on an epic journey from Geneva to Kabul with fellow writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach in a brand new Ford.

This two-woman car journey was truly badass, only one of them made it home, and it is not likely to be recreated any time in the near future, due to scheduled overland stops in Iran and Afghanistan.
posted by obscurator at 5:21 PM on January 27, 2013


You could almost date this story from the names alone: Edith, Dorothy, and Evelyn. Fine names, but people think "old lady" when they here them now.
posted by pracowity at 11:02 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "about" page of the blog says the aims of the road trip are:

  1. Document how the places visited in 1929 have transformed or been historically preserved
  2. Analyze the similarities and differences between advice literature from the 1920s and advice literature from today
  3. Learn about what news-making events were happening in each place as the three visited them
  4. See how far $450 will get her along the route
  5. See how far nearly $6,000 will get her on the trip ($450 in 1929 inflated to today’s price)
... hmm. If this was an assignment for someone in junior high school, yeah, those are reasonable goals. But for someone with a Masters' degree? They don't seem especially taxing, or in fact very exciting. They basically translate to "Here are photos from my trip, possibly contrasted with old-timey photos of the same places. Here is some funny advice literature from last century. Here are newspaper headlines of the day from the towns I passed through. Here is what I spent on the trip."
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:04 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to see some black people try this using The Negro Motorist Green Book. Plan it out way in advance so you can stop only (or as much as possible) at Green-listed hotels, restaurants, and service stations along the route. Do it in a vintage car and vintage clothes just for fun, and leave the cell phones at home (or in the trunk, just for emergencies).

But I bet most of the old stops are gone now. For example, I was just googling some addresses in Niagara Falls, NY, from the Green Book. According to the Niagara Falls Gazette in 1934, black people could have gone out to see "Miss Jennie Dillard and Her Sunny Aces" or "Miss Caroline Williams and Her 4 Dancing Queens" at the Sunset Cafe on Erie Avenue, but it looks like Miss Jennie Dillard, Miss Caroline Williams, all of their Aces and Queens, and everything else on Erie Avenue were bulldozed away as part of a bad "urban renewal" project.
posted by pracowity at 11:59 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to see some black people try this using The Negro Motorist Green Book.

Now that would be utterly fascinating. I've been interested in black tourism during the "nadir" period for some time, and that would be a pretty interesting look into that era as well as our own.

I'm sure most of the stops are gone. Near where I used to live, a preservation effort is working to save Rock Rest as a historic house museum. The owners passed away, the children have moved on, and it was sitting there defunct and waiting for somebody to get interested in it. The house still contains all the china, furniture, handwritten recipes from the time it was operating, and the archive is here. But even visiting long-gone sites or sites in transition, like this one, could be interesting. Meanwhile, many black resorts established in that day (or earlier) do still thrive, which would be fun - the travelers could interview present-day vacationers about it. And many of them would have family members from previous generations who traveled there in Green Book days.
posted by Miko at 6:03 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe those are just the things about her project she thought would be most interesting to the general public? A textual analysis of the letters, for example, would be a worthy and interesting project, but not something she thinks other people would be interested in. I would be willing to bet that her thesis will incorporate more than just "junior high school" ramblings. Here's something she's written about intended audiences for travel guides. I'm sure that, since she's following the paths of a group of women based on their letters, there will be some analyses of gender and whatnot. But again, she probably just chose a few aspects of her project to highlight and incorrectly guessed what metafilter deemed worthy for someone seeking a master's degree.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:02 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


But again, she probably just chose a few aspects of her project to highlight and incorrectly guessed what metafilter deemed worthy for someone seeking a master's degree

Didn't she already get the degree and this trip is afterfun, not part of the actual MA thesis? Her other blog.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:07 PM on January 29, 2013


"Afterfun," public history project which is an extension of the thesis and a home for explorations excluded from its necessarily narrow focus - however you like it. This is the result of her MA thesis and the beginning of her public history career, which has already produced work valuable to her colleagues.

You seem resentful and a little dumbfounded, and yet, these things are possible.
posted by Miko at 8:11 PM on January 29, 2013


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