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How Women Changed the Auto Industry

Women have been inventing, designing and creating in the auto industry since its induction.

Women in automotive.

How women changed the automotive industry.

Women have been inventing, designing and creating in the auto industry since its induction. We have women to thank for the first car heater, windshield wipers, turn signals and the wireless technology later used for GPS and WiFi. And while it’s no surprise that they were at the forefront of new designs and technologies, history often fails to mention their accomplishments. At Toyota, we’re making sure their brilliance and ingenuity are remembered.


Driving the future.

  • 1893: Mechanical engineer Margaret Wilcox invented the first car heater
  • 1902: Mary Anderson invented a manual lever version of windshield wipers after watching drivers stop to wipe snow and rain from their windshields
  • 1913: Charlotte Bridgwood improved upon Anderson’s invention and created automatic windscreen wipers using rollers instead of blades
  • 1917: Florence Lawerence, also known as the ‘first movie star’ invented the technology for first version of the turn signal. It consisted of a mechanical arm that signaled which way you were turning and was operable with a button inside the car
  • 1941: Hedy Lamarr, also an actress, invented and filed a patent for the wireless transmission technology used for GPS and WiFi
  • 1986: Mimi Vandermolen led the ‘rounded edge revolution’ redesign of the Ford Taurus. This redesign included a brand-new interior with ergonomic seats, rotary dials for climate control, and an updated dashboard that included a suite of controls within the drivers reach
  • 2022,, Margaret Wu was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her work on synthetic lubricants. From the late 1970’s through 2009, Wu developed new synthetic based motor oils which improved engine performance, oil life and fuel efficiency. Upon her retirement from ExxonMobile Research, Wu was the first female named as a senior scientific adviser, the highest technical rank within the company. 

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