Alice Ramsey: Driving in New Directions


  • Katherine Parkin



Summering in Asbury Park in 1908 enabled Alice Ramsey to hone her motor skills as she drove 6,000 miles of Monmouth County roads. She developed skills to care for and maintain the car, with few services available to her. Her winning performances in endurance runs on Long Island and between New York City and Philadelphia caught the eye of a Maxwell-Briscoe car promoter who invited her to undertake a sponsored trip across the country. When she crossed the country in 1909, only a tiny percentage of women drove; there were few formal roads and very little guidance on how to navigate. While she was known throughout her life as Mrs. John R. Ramsey and had two children, after her husband's death in 1933, Alice Ramsey, under cover of her married name and her identity as mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, lived for 50 years with women she loved. Her wealth, presumptive heterosexuality, and notoriety as an automotive pioneer led newspapers and magazines in the 1960s and 1970s to cover her unconventional life.