Women Who Motor

Edsel and Eleanor Ford House
Grosse Pointe Shores, MI

Women Who Motor expanded interpretation at the Ford House beyond stories of the Ford family to examine the interactions and transformations of women and cars in twentieth-century America. The main theme of the exhibit is “The automobile changed the history of women, and women changed the history of the automobile.”

The exhibit examines the many ways women have historically interacted with cars: riding in them, driving them, buying them, designing them, manufacturing them, selling them, and racing them. The story line was designed to appeal to students who are looking for female role models in the automotive industry, automobile enthusiasts, and the regular general audience, primarily adults from southeast Michigan. The story is broken into three sections: the Early Years (1885-1945), the Post War Years (1946-1964), and the Modern Era (1965-present). An automobile representative of that era anchors each section along with seven panels containing photos and advertisements. Each section also has two artifact cases with women’s driving clothing and other artifacts. The exhibit was designed to facilitate different types of learning and interests, and the open floorplan, multi-media components, and app allow visitors to customize their experience.

Public programming enhanced the exhibit and engaged a wider audience with its themes of social and technological change. Children’s activities included scooter and pedal car races, while adults could enjoy talks, tours, and tastings with the “Fast Women/Hot Plates” series. During the month of March, duplicate panels from the exhibit were on display at the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month

Women Who Motor accomplished a number of goals for the Ford House. First, it opened up the historic Garage space for visitors, which is an interesting attraction on its own. Next, the exhibit offered an exploration of art, design, and history within the story of women and the automobile. Finally, this exhibit highlights the stories of the Ford women and their experiences with the invention that made the family famous. By connecting these stories to those of car-loving women nationwide, the Ford House made a valuable connection with the community and its own Detroit heritage.