Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“What a Woman Can Do With an Auto”: American Women in the Early Automotive Era
by Lesh, Carla Rose, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2010, 195; 3432927
Abstract (Summary)

Women used automobiles as soon as they had access to them. This dissertation explores ways in which Black, Native, and White women utilized the automobile to improve their quality of life and achieve greater freedom as they navigated the restrictions of early twentieth-century mainstream society. With the automobile came a new freedom: freedom from the insult and danger Black women encountered on public conveyances in the era of increasing segregation; freedom for Native women to reconnect with kin, maintain cultural networks, and pursue expanded economic opportunities despite the restrictions of the policies of the federal government; and freedom from the restrictions of the idealized image of a sheltered, home-centered life of the Victorian-era White woman.

Black, Native and White women had unique concerns and common aims as they negotiated their way in mainstream society at a time when advocacy for social change that would affect society in the coming decades was undergoing a resurgence. For women the automobile was a useful tool to improve quality of life. In the 1890s racism and gender stereotypes were prevalent in the United States. The automobile provided a means for Black, Native and White women to pull away from those limitations and claim their individual freedom.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Steen, Ivan D.
Commitee: Hochfelder, David, Kizenko, Nadieszda, Murrell Taylor, Amy
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Black history, American history, Womens studies, Native American studies
Keywords: African-American, Automobile, Native American, Women
Publication Number: 3432927
ISBN: 9781124380889
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