From blinkers to Bluetooth, did you know that many of the features we use in our cars every day were invented by women? Women’s History Month occurs every year for the entire month of March, and is a perfect time to learn about, celebrate and honor the women who paved the way for others to follow.

As we gear up for another spring season, let’s reflect on the achievements of 10 women in the auto industry throughout history, many of which are either unknown or forgotten.


Bertha Benz

In 1886, Bertha Benz (yes, of Mercedes-Benz) made history by road-tripping! During a time when women were not encouraged to be bold behind the wheel, Bertha became the first person ever to travel 65+ miles via motorized carriage, which was no easy feat back then.


Anne Rainsford French Bush

Today, over 9 out of every 10 adults drive in the United States. That’s over 243 million people on the road, and women have Anne Rainsford French Bush to thank. In 1900, she became the first woman in America to earn her driver’s license.


Margaret Wilcox

In 1893, Margaret Wilcox received a patent for her ingenious solution to an everyday problem: running a channel of air through a car’s engine (since it generates a lot of heat), and sending it back into the rail cars. Today, we simply call this our car heater.


Mary Barra

In 2014, Mary Barra made history by becoming the first woman CEO of a major automotive manufacturer. Over the last decade, she has become one of the most influential chief executives ever at General Motors.


Hedy Lamarr

While some may remember her as a Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr’s most impactful legacy is something many of us use daily. During WWII, she created a device that blocked enemy ships from interrupting torpedo guidance signals through “frequency jumping,” or in other words, Bluetooth. Her groundbreaking innovation saved lives in the 1940s, and still is today by enabling hands-free connection in cars and beyond.


Gladys Mae West

We would be lost without Gladys Mae West – literally. While working as a mathematician for the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in 1978, she became the project manager for SEASAT, the first earth-orbiting satellite measuring ocean depths. Thanks to her innovation and curiosity, GPS technology was created.


Florence Lawrence

Daughter of Charlotte Bridgwood, Florence Lawrence was also a performer and inventor. In 1913, the esteemed silent film actress created the “Auto Signaling Arm,” which would raise when brakes were pressed. Even though she never received any patents for her idea, her innovation inspired both brake lights and turn signals, and shaped the “rules of the road” we abide by to this day.


Mary Anderson & Charlotte Bridgwood

In 1903, Mary Anderson first had the idea for a windshield wiper during a snowy trolley car ride through New York City. She designed a spring-loaded arm that would wipe across the windshield, but required manual operation. Years later, Charlotte Bridgwood expanded on her idea, and in 1917, the first electrically operated windshield wiper was invented. However, their patents eventually expired due to lack of interest from the automakers. If only they knew that, years later, their technology would be an essential feature in every car!


Alice Ramsey

In 1909, Alice Ramsey was driving a rare Maxwell, which caught the attention of the company’s sales manager. The car company actually paid for Ramsey to drive herself and three of her friends 3,600 miles across America, which was no simple task back then. It took them a whopping 59 days, but she became the first woman to drive from U.S. coast-to-coast. She’d later repeat the trip another 30 times! 91 years after, she’d be the first woman inaugurated into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2000.

The next time you blast your car heater on a cold winter morning or crank your windshield wipers during a rainstorm, take a beat to both remember the fearless women who changed history and feel inspired about those yet to make their marks on the world.

Who did we miss, in the auto industry and beyond? Keep the conversation going in the comments!