Stunning Vintage Photos Exhibit 1920s Flappers And Their Cars

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

If you’re female and you drive, you’ve probably rolled your eyes several times at some cheesy “women drivers” jokes from jerks throughout the years.

There’s an idea (a wrong one) that women and cars don’t mix, but in fact, women have always been involved in automobiles.

The first long-distance driver of a car was Bertha Benz, wife of German automobile inventor Karl Benz.

Not only did she finance much of his invention, but in 1888, at the age of 39, she drove 66 miles, becoming the first person to cover significant distance in a car, and helped make adjustments to make cars run safer and smoother.

When cars became really popular in the early 1900s, they were a symbol of invention, progress, and freedom — all things they still symbolize today. People could travel more easily, and just like today, a new car was a major purchase and one to be proud of.

In the 1920s, women across the country posed for photos with their cars. The photos are charming and capture the days of the very first road trips, gorgeous vintage fashion, and, of course, some fascinating old cars.

But they also show us how the roles of women were changing in society, as they became more independent, and gained more and more rights.

Today, we still have issues that affect women, such as the constant, tiresome pressure to look a certain, often unrealistic way. These photos show us not only how far we’ve come, but also remind us to celebrate the ladies who made the first strides.

[H/T: Vintage Everyday, AutoLife]

In the 1920s, women were making huge strides in the U.S.

They were granted the right to vote and were becoming more active members of their communities.

Reflecting those freedoms were loose, sporty fashions and access to the automobile.

But as with any progress, there was, of course, some backlash. Women drivers were ridiculed, and some men even tried to prohibit women from driving.

But after many women had served as supply drivers and the like during WWI, those attempts failed.

Instead, many women embraced driving, and many of them liked to pose on their (or their families’) cars.

Famous women of the time like Edith Wharton and Emily Post famously drove, making it even more popular with women.

In fact, during this time, electric cars were marketed to women because they were cleaner and quieter, traits that manufacturers thought would appeal to feminine sensibilities.

But because electric cars were expensive to charge and maintain, gas-powered cars won out in the early 1900s. But women kept driving — and pushing boundaries.

Of course, some of them got a little cheeky, and this might be where the now-classic pinup girl and car combination got started.

Other women, though, took a more practical route when posing with their cars, like these two in sensible, sporty trousers.

Some photos, like this one, are jokey in nature. After all, you’re not going to change the oil in your good clothes, but you can show off your gams.

There are also a lot of group photos, suggesting that maybe these women liked to plan road trips with their friends just like we do today.

This was the beginning of the classically American dream of hitting the open road under sunny skies.

And it seems like these might be the beginning of tailgating, too, as a bumper makes a great makeshift seat, even when you’re dressed up.

Cars meant that women could get where they needed to go, when they wanted to get there, whether they were going to the beach…

…Or going for a shoot…

…Or just stopping to contemplate the open road and look great doing it.

Tell us your favorite road trip story in the comments, and SHARE these amazing vintage photos with your friends!