Motor Girls by Sue Macy

Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century by Sue Macy. February 7, 2017. National Geographic Children’s Books, 96 p. ISBN: 9781426326981.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.8.

Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None



Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
Macy builds on Wheels of Change, which examined the connections between women’s rights and the mobility offered by the bicycle, as she chronicles the history of the automobile and the paths that led women to become motorists. Against a backdrop of captivating archival photographs and excerpts from periodicals, she introduces several “Motor Girls” who made strides behind the wheel. In 1909, Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive a car across the United States; she was followed by numerous other cross-country female drivers and racers. A section on WWI demonstrates how the war necessitated that women pilot ambulances and other automobiles, further solidifying that woman could, and wanted to, drive vehicles. Using the lens of automotive history to inform a greater narrative about women’s liberation, Macy capably shows how threads of the past are intertwined. Ages 10-up.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Well-documented proof that, when it came to early automobiles, it wasn’t just men who took the wheel. Despite relentlessly flashy page design that is more distracting than otherwise and a faint typeface sure to induce eyestrain, this companion to Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (2011) chronicles decided shifts in gender attitudes and expectations as it puts women (American women, mostly) behind the wheel in the first decades of the 20th century. Sidebar profiles and features, photos, advertisements, and clippings from contemporary magazines and newspapers festoon a revved-up narrative that is often set in angular blocks for added drama. Along with paying particular attention to women who went on the road to campaign for the vote and drove ambulances and other motor vehicles during World War I, Macy recounts notable speed and endurance races, and she introduces skilled drivers/mechanics such as Alice Ramsey and Joan Newton Cuneo. She also diversifies the predominantly white cast with nods to Madam C.J. Walker, her daughter, A’Lelia (both avid motorists), and the wartime Colored Women’s Motor Corps. An intro by Danica Patrick, checklists of “motoring milestones,” and an extended account of an 1895 race run and won by men do more for the page count than the overall story—but it’s nonetheless a story worth the telling. Macy wheels out another significant and seldom explored chapter in women’s history. (index, statistics, source notes, annotated reading list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Sue Macy is the award-winning author of Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports and A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Both were named ALA Best Books for Young Adults and NCSS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies. She lives in Englewood, NJ.

Her website is

 Around the Web

Motor Girls on Amazon

Motor Girls on Goodreads

Motor Girls on JLG


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