Today in Herstory: Maxwell Motor Company Makes Strides for Women

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


December 15, 1914: The Maxwell Motor Company’s salesroom on “Automobile Row” at Broadway and Fifty-ninth Street in Manhattan took on a distinctly feminist air today.

The company inaugurated its new policy of employing women to demonstrate and sell automobiles – and will even be paying them on the same basis as men. On hand to take part in the festivities were a number of noted suffragists, including Mary Garrett Hay, president of the New York City Woman Suffrage Party and Crystal Eastman, a founding member of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

Inez Milholland Boissevain introduced the speakers, all of whom were quite enthusiastic about the opportunities for women in the automotive field. They expressed confidence that this experiment would prove successful and bolster their contention that women are quite capable of doing well in any field if only given the opportunity to prove themselves, and be judged solely on the basis of ability. The suffragists were also quite impressed by the hours and working conditions here, and it is hoped that this enlightened attitude will spread to other companies and industries.

As a practical example of women’s mechanical abilities, Jean E. Moehle, who recently graduated from Barnard College, spent the afternoon in a leather apron assembling and disassembling a motor, to the fascination of the crowd. Mabel Wiley demonstrated her abilities as well, by selling her first car before the reception was over.

Mary Pickford, who has starred in six films so far this year, “Tess of the Storm Country” and “Hearts Adrift” among the most noteworthy, driving her new Maxwell Cabriolet.

Selling any of the new Maxwell “25” models should be an easy job, because by producing in volume (37,000 new 1915 models ordered by dealers between their introduction on August 1st and mid-September) Maxwells can be purchased at the lowest of prices. A 4 cylinder, 186 cubic inch, 21 horsepower Roadster can be bought for only $670, a 5-passenger Touring Car for $695, a Cabriolet for $840, and even a Town Car runs only $920. For just $55 more, any of these models can have electric, rather than gas headlights, and an electric self-starter as well.

So, if you want to buy a new car, and would like to get a good bargain, as well as help women break into a relatively new and rapidly growing field, there’s now a place where it’s possible to do all three at the same time!

INFLATIONARY NOTE: $670 in 1914 = $15,908 in 2014; $695 = $16,502; $840 = $19,944; $920 = $21,844; $55 = $1,306.

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