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Alice Huyler Ramsey: From Hell Gate to the
Golden Gate in a Maxwell 30

[ photo: Alice Huyler Ramsey ]

From Hell Gate to the
Golden Gate in a Maxwell 30

The first woman to cross the continent behind the wheel of a car was Alice Huyler Ramsey, Vassar class of 1907. In the summer of 1909, the 21-year-old founder and president of the Women's Motoring Club of New Jersey left her baby with a nursemaid and set out on a rainy day in June with her two older sisters-in-law and a friend—none of whom could drive—in a Maxwell 30. From New York City, they headed north to Poughkeepsie, and then made their way west through Buffalo, Cleveland, and Chicago.

Heavy rains and floods washed out roads and bridges in Iowa, but Ramsey resisted suggestions to ship her Maxwell to Omaha by train. Instead she drove to Sioux City, then continued into Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Calling upon her skills as a mechanic as well as a driver, Ramsey coaxed her battered vehicle across desert and over mountains. Weary but triumphant, the foursome motored into San Francisco on August 10. The journey of 3,800 miles had taken 59 days and 11 spare tires.

VV April 1994
Photo credit: Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections