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Alice Ramsey

Sport: Auto Racing

Born: November 11, 1886

Died: September 10, 1983

Town: Hackensack

Alice Taylor Huyler was born November 11, 1886 is New Barbadoes, which was known by the locals as Hackensack until its name became official in 1921. Alice was the bright and adventurous daughter of an affluent lumber dealer. Alice graduated from Vassar College in 1905 and married prominent lawyer John Ramsey, the longtime County Clerk and later a U.S. Congressman.

One day, John’s horse was startled by an automobile. He foresaw the day when all horses would be replaced by the horseless carriage and purchased a car for Alice. She became obsessed with her gift and logged thousands of miles on the dirt roads of Northern New Jersey. She also became the president of the Empire Steering Club, an organization of female driving enthusiasts.

In 1909, Alice competed in a 200-mile race on Long Island. A representative from the Maxwell Briscoe Automobile Company admired her driving and proposed an audacious publicity stunt: an all-woman cross-country trip in a Maxwell to prove the safety and reliability of his product.

On June 9, surrounded by photographers and legions of curiosity-seekers, Alice set off on her epic journey, accompanied by a 16-year-old friend, Hermine Jahns, and her two 40-something sisters-in-law, Nettie Powell and Margaret Atwood. All four women wore driving goggles and dusters. It had been only 6 years since the first cross-country trip has been completed, by Dr. Horatio Jackson.

Fifty-nine days and 3,800 miles later, Alice arrived in San Francisco, becoming the first woman to drive across the country. She had no maps and only a rudimentary knowledge of mechanics, but with the help of her travel companies managed to fix flats and make minor repairs along the way. Their top speed was 42 miles per hour, although typically the going was much slower. They used landmarks to navigate, as road signs and route numbers were not in common use. When they got lost they followed the telegraph poles with the greatest number of wires on them.

Alice returned to New Jersey by train, but she was hooked. She complete more than 30 cross-country drives in her life. She lived to the age of 96 and published a book about her journey—Veil, Duster and Tire Iron—in 1960. In 2000, she became the first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.


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