On the Road: Women Motorists Across America

Blanche Stuart Scott, a pioneer aviator and motorist, was the first person to inaugurate a transcontinental motor trip for the purpose of interesting women in the value of motor car driving. Alice Huyler Ramsey was the first woman to drive an automobile across the United States from coast to coast, a feat she completed on August 7, 1909. Harriet White Fisher Andrew the first woman to circle the globe in a Locomobile.

The open road stood as a symbol of freedom and offered women means of exploration, an opportunity to become rugged adventurers. Automobiles started to appear at the same time women were striving for freedom in the home and in politics. Women’s growing independence and suffrage movement coincided with the rise of the motoring. To set out on the road required a sense of adventure and determination, an ability to cope with at times harsh conditions, and the know-how to troubleshoot repairs or problem-solve.

Automobile travel exploded in the United States during the mid-20th century as more and more Americans were able to afford cars, had disposable income and leisure time (including paid vacations) that allowed them to explore the country. The independence of the open road, was a luxury not afforded to all women. Class and race factored in; motoring then was an exclusive type of recreation, reserved to the upper classes and the academics.

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 Lydia D. Bray letter, circa 1850

Lydia D. Bray letter, circa 1850

Letter from Lydia D. Bray in Cass County, Texas to her grandparents; undated but circa 1850. Lydia writes of her recent move from Tennessee and is beginning a new life in Texas with her husband, Thomas. During her journey to Texas she sees the Mississippi River, fourteen steamboats, Indians and “Tomahoke,” bears, wolves, alligators, “and a grate many other things I never wod have seen if I had stade in Tennessee.” She also sends greetings to aunts and uncles at home.

DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A2004.0010c

Purchase 2004


Souvenirs of travel, 2 volumes

Octavia Walton Le Vert (1810-1877)

Souvenirs of travel, 2 volumes

Mobile; New York: S. H. Goetzel and company, 1857

Octavia Walton Le Vert’s Souvenirs of Travel describes her trips to Europe and experiences with European high society. In 1855 Alabama Governor John A. Winston appointed Octavia as the state’s commissioner to the Paris Exposition; she was the only female commissioner appointed. During her trips to Europe she was presented to the Pope, to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and to Napoleon and Eugenie.

DeGolyer Library, General Collection, D919 .L65


Galveston, Texas diary

Galveston, Texas diary

This anonymous woman’s diary written between April 17 and May 5, 1858 describes her visit to Galveston, a “daguerrian saloon,” her guilt over her father’s death, and religious introspection. Her father was a ship captain. She mentions a Mr. Gottheil frequently and describes him as an architect. This could possibly be Edward Gottheil, a German emigrant known for his work in New Orleans.

DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A2014.0013c

Purchase, 2014


California. A pleasure trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate.

Miriam Florence Squier Leslie [Mrs. Frank Leslie] (1836-1914)

California. A pleasure trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate.

New York: G. W. Carleton & co.; London, S. Low, son & co., 1877

Miriam Florence Squier Leslie was an American publisher and author. She was the wife of Frank Leslie and the heir to his publishing business. This work is Florence’s account of their lavish $15,000 trip in 1877 from New York City to San Francisco. It includes her descriptions of cities and terrain from a woman’s viewpoint and her original provocative comments on the places she visited and the people she met, from miners to coolies, emigrants, to Native Americans. “Let us rather say, that this work of mine is a vehicle, through which, with feminine longing for sympathy, I convey to you my pleasures, annoyances, and experiences in the journey it narrates…”

DeGolyer Library, General Collection, F594 .L6


Letter from Kittie Andrews to A. H. Andrews, 1888 January 29

Kittie Andrews

Letter from Kittie Andrews to A. H. Andrews, 1888 January 29

This collection includes a six page letter with envelope from Kittie to her husband A. H. Andrews, of Meriden, Connecticut. Her letter describes her travels in California while vacationing with her mother on a Santa Fe Railroad tour. Letterhead is from the Hotel Glenwood in Riverside, California, but the mailing envelope is from the Raymond Hotel in East Pasadena, California.

DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A1992.1835c

Purchase, 1992


Letter from Katie Welsh to Mr. David Smiley, July 22, 1898

Katie Welsh

Letter from Katie Welsh to Mr. David Smiley, July 22, 1898

This letter from Katie Welsh to Mr. David Smiley, July 22, 1898 describes her trip to the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha. After describing tourist excursions to Pike’s Peak and other places she has visited, Welsh requests Mr. Smiley to send “your most picturesque & pleasurable circular” to her hotel in Colorado Springs.

DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A2001.2298c

Purchase, 2001


The log of the automobile: records and observations by the owner

Bookcraft Company

The log of the automobile: records and observations by the owner

Boston: Bookcraft Co., c1902

A relic of the early days of the automobile, the log consists of printed forms to be completed in manuscript with details of “runs” in the automobile, including beginning and end of the journey, distance traveled, weather conditions, autographs of guests, and a detailed history. The “pedigree and points” page at the front describes the make, horsepower, rating, speed per hour, radius of locomotion and seating capacity of the automobile.

DeGolyer Library, General Collection, GV1021.B64 1902


Western Wonderland [privately printed account of a western trip]

Elizabeth Albertha Taylor

Western Wonderland [privately printed account of a western trip]


Elizabeth Albertha Taylor recounts a western journey of a group of women beginning in Denver with sightseeing. The group then made their way to Manitou; Cheyenne Canyon for a “botany expedition”; Pike’s Peak; Garden of the Gods; and Glenwood Springs where they celebrated July 4th. They went on to stay at Yellowstone. Account is an illustrated diary which includes many photographs of scenery and towns, as well as photos of the group and their activities.

DeGolyer Library, Pamphlet Collection, PS3539.A8913 W4 1903

Purchase, 2022


Places visited a transcontinental diary, 1904

Olga L. La Frentz (1887-1966)

Places visited a transcontinental diary, 1904

“It was about dusk Thursday evening the 23 of June 1904 when a merry band of travelers set forth from 26th St. James Pl, Brooklyn NY on an extended tour across the Continent.” In 1904 Olga L. La Frentz traveled with her parents and sister to Buffalo, Chicago, and Niagara Falls. On July 1, they boarded the Northern Pacific car “Redlodge” and traveled to Gardiner, Montana. From there they hired a private guide and toured Yellowstone National Park by horseback and car. The diary ends “July 8, 1904. On our way to Mammoth Hot Spring, Y.N.P.”

DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A1998.2208c

Purchase, 1997

On the Road: Women Motorists Across America