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Women Take a Seat in Transportation Hall of Fame

Wed October 28, 2009 - National Edition
Carolyn Thompson

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Bad roads, bad weather, flat tires, breakdowns. A lot of Alice Ramsey’s challenges during her New York City-to-San Francisco drive could be any traveler’s.

In 1909, though, and before any other woman had made such a trip, others were uniquely hers. Like when she was stopped by a posse of men on horseback who were tracking a murderer, or frightened by Indians in Nebraska, until finding they were just hunting jackrabbits. And long before GPS, there were driving guides with landmarks like “yellow house and barn’’ to steer her along.

One hundred years after spending 41 days behind the wheel to become the first woman to drive across the continent, Ramsey will take a permanent place in a new hall of fame dedicated to women in transportation.

Ramsey, who told her story in the 1961 book, “Veil, Duster and Tire Iron’’ and died in 1983, was recently honored posthumously at a ceremony in Buffalo. Other inductees into the new National Transportation Women’s Hall of Fame include a Seattle woman, Emily Anderson, who retraced Ramsey’s historic journey in a 1909 Maxwell this spring.

The hall of fame will be housed inside the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum, which has a collection of antique and classic vehicles ranging from Pierce-Arrows — luxury cars made in Buffalo through the 1930s — to carriages, motorcycles and bicycles from the 19th and 20th centuries.

“We started to research to find out what is there in the United States that depicts women and what their accomplishments have been in transportation, and there is none,’’ said James Sandoro, the museum’s founder and president.

With the museum and its strong women’s exhibit already in place, they decided to establish a permanent exhibit that will depict women in different forms of transportation, not just automobiles, Sandoro said.

“This is such an honor and I am proud to be a part of it,’’ said Lauren Fix, a race car driver and host of “Talk 2 DIY Automotive,’’ a television auto repair show.

Fix, who lives in Depew, near Buffalo, joins Ramsey in the first class of inductees. Others are Marguerite Hambleton, president of the AAA in New York State; Donna Luh, a former Buffalo Niagara International Airport project coordinator; and former Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Commissioner Mary Martino.

The Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum is undergoing a $15 million expansion, which will include construction of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed filling station. Wright designed the station with overhead, gravity-fed tanks for the former Tydol Oil company in Buffalo in 1927 but it was never built. Sandoro secured the rights to build a non-working version of the structure several years ago.

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