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by Lynne Bellusico

“The Woman and the Car – A

Chatty Little Handbook for the

Edwardian Motoriste”

On our recent trip to Pitts-

burgh, I found an interesting

book at the museum shop at the

Frick Museum. They have a nice

collection of carriages and early

automobiles, and this reprint of a

1909 book, gives advice to the “Ed-

wardian Motoriste.” It was written

by Dorothy Levitt and she shared

many ideas for the female driver.

Since our 1908 Cadillac was pur-

chased and driven by a woman, I

thought we needed to have a copy

in our library.

Dorothy Levitt was the “pre-

mier woman motorist and botorist

of the world.” (I checked “botorist”

and discovered that it was a word

to describe people who drive mo-

torized boats.) She raced cars in

England, France and Germany.

The chapters in her book include

the upkeep and cost of accesso-

ries; what to wear; understanding

the mechanics of the car; how

to drive them; motor manners; a

woman’s guide to technical terms;

and comments of various makes

of automobiles. Here are some

excerpts from “The Woman and

the Car – A chatty Little Handbook

for the Edwardian Motoriste”:

“We now come to the various

levers and their different functions.

The Woman And The Car

A Chatty Little Handbook for Edwardian Motoriste

There are six levers, the change-

speed, or gear lever, on the left-

hand side of the steering-column,

under the steering wheel; the

ignition-lever and the air-lever,

both to be found under the steering

wheel on the right-hand side of the

steering column; the hand throttle,

underneath the steering wheel;

in centre of column, on a small

ratchet, the hand-brake lever and

the first-speed lever.”

“If you are driving in a very

hilly or mountainous country, you

must give the engine a charge of oil

more frequently than every twenty

miles on account of its having to

be on low gear, when the engine

runs much faster and is liable to get

over-heated and it is does become

over heated you will soon notice a

nasty “knock” regarding which I

will explain in a later chapter on


“You will find room for gloves

in the little drawer under the seat

of the car. This little drawer is

the secret of the dainty motorist.

What you put into it depends on

your tastes, but the following arti-

cles are what I advise you to have

in its recesses. A pair of clean

gloves, an extra handkerchief,

clean veil, powder puff (unless

you despise them,) hair-pins, and

ordinary pins, a hand mirror, and

some chocolates are very soothing


“The mirror should be fairly

large to be really useful, and it

is better to have one with a long

handle to it. Just before starting,

take the glass out of the little

drawer and put it into the little

flap pocket of the car. You will

find it useful to have it handy –

not for strictly personal use, but

to occasionally to hold up to see

what is behind you. Sometimes

you will wonder if you heard a

car behind you, and while the

necessity or inclination is to

look round is rare, you can, with

the mirror, see in a flash what is

in the rear without losing your

forward way - - - “

“Another outlay is to be found

in tips. The men at a garage are

always hungry for tips and your car

will be polished with greater zest

if the tips are frequent or generous.

The advertisement of a “no tip”

garage is a fallacy. The proprietor

may consider this principle the

right one, but if you act according

to his idea, your car will probably


“Some hotels and wayside inns

now days clean cars which stop

with them overnight without extra

charge, yet the fee they charge for

the garage really covers this. “

“Twenty or thirty years ago,

two of the essentials to a motorist

– some acquaintance withmechan-

ics and the ability to understand

local topography - were supposed

to be beyond the capacity of a

woman’s brain. The supposition

was simply due to the fact that

woman’s brain had never had oc-

casion to approach these subjects.

Fifty years ago a satirical writer

– a man, of course – averred that

although instructions in the use

of the globes was part of the cur-

riculum of every girls school, no

woman could understand, or would

try to understand a road map. . .

. indeed, the average woman is

probably quicker than the average

man in gathering from a map the

information it has to offer,”

“If you are going to drive

alone in the highways and byways

it might be advisable to carry a

small revolver. I have an automat-

ic “Colt” and find it very easy to

handle as there is practically no

recoil – a great consideration to

a woman. I may add, I practice

continually at a range to keep my

hand and eye in, it is none the less

a comfort to know that should the

occasion arise I have the means

to defend myself.”