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Eat My Dust

, 216 pages

16 halftones, 2 line drawings

August 2008



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Eat My Dust

Early Women Motorists

Open Access Edition Available at Project MUSE

The history of the automobile would be incomplete without considering the influence of the car on the lives and careers of women in the earliest decades of the twentieth century. Illuminating the relationship between women and cars with case studies from across the globe, Eat My Dust challenges the received wisdom that men embraced automobile technology more naturally than did women.

Georgine Clarsen highlights the personal stories of women from the United States, Britain, Australia, and colonial Africa from the early days of motoring until 1930. She notes the different ways in which these women embraced automobile technology in their national and cultural context. As mechanics and taxi drivers—like Australian Alice Anderson and Brit Sheila O'Neil—and long-distance adventurers and political activists—like South Africans Margaret Belcher and Ellen Budgell and American suffragist Sara Bard Field—women sought to define the technology in their own terms and according to their own needs. They challenged traditional notions of femininity through their love of cars and proved they were articulate, confident, and mechanically savvy motorists in their own right.

More than new chapters in automobile history, these stories locate women motorists within twentieth-century debates about class, gender, sexuality, race, and nation.

Georgine Clarsen is a senior lecturer in the School of History and Politics at the University of Wollongong.

"This is an extremely interesting book in that it provides the reader with a different perspective on the automobile age and what it meant to women as well as society as a whole... A must-have book for anyone interested in women's history. The photographs of various women traveling or involved in mechanical work are a great addition as well. It is a fascinating look at the way that cars freed many women and started us on the path to greater 'mechanical' equality with men."

"Georgine Clarsen has produced a fascinating account of women motorists in the first three decades of the automobile age. Her crisp and elegant prose takes the reader on a speedy trip over a wide range of terrain, indicating the importance of the car in the cultural politics of the early 20th century."

"Presents an excellent case study of the ways in which new technologies take on gendered meanings in the process of their social integration... Highly readable book."

"For anyone wanting to fully understand early automotive history, this book is a necessary read."

"This study holds great value, helping readers to appreciate the rich history of women's involvement in things mechanical."

"Eat My Dust stands as an impressive account of women's engagement with numerous aspects of automobile culture and thus with the ways that technology shapes and is shaped by concerns of gender, race, and the body."

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