In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are spotlighting some of the trailblazing women throughout history who have helped to make the trucking industry what it is today. Learn more about these women and each of their contributions to the trucking industry.
Over 100 years ago in 1918, Luella Bates became the first female truck driver. World War I brought women into the trucking industry for the first time out of sheer desperation, as many American men were sent to fight in the war and caused a serious labor shortage. Bates worked for about four years for the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. as a test driver, traveling all around Wisconsin for her company. Though Bates was hired out of necessity, her worth was proven when the war ended and many men returned to the auto industry, she was kept on as a demonstrator and driver thanks to her well-known driving skills. She was also one of the few drivers at the time who was able to act as a mechanic as well, handling all the maintenance on her truck on her own.
Lillie Elizabeth Drennan
Lillie Elizabeth Drennan is credited with two firsts for women in the trucking industry: the first female licensed truck driver and the first woman to own a trucking company. In 1928, Drennan and her husband saw potential in the oil industry boom and started their own trucking company. Shortly after the formation of their company, Lillie earned her commercial trucking license to better acquaint herself with the business they were now in. Later down the line, Drennan became the sole owner of the company, giving her even more power and status in a tough, male-dominated industry.
Rusty Dow worked as a truck driver during World War II for the U.S. Army Engineers/Alaska Defense Command. Rusty made her name in trucking by becoming the very first woman to transport a full truckload the entire length of the Alaska Highway in 1944. The trip was a total of 1,560 miles, which she completed in only seven days.
In 1943, women made history yet again in the trucking industry when Mazie Lanham became the first woman to drive for UPS. Like many other companies, UPS was forced to hire women out of necessity during World War II, ushering in a new era for women. In the early stages, women handled jobs such as sorting, tracing, routing, and loading packages but soon enough, it became clear that UPS would also need women to become drivers as well. Mazie Lanham then became the first of a long line of women to do so.
Adriesue “Bitzy” Gomez
Fast forward nearly 30 years, Bitzy Gomez made a name for herself as part of the 1970’s Coalition of Women Truck Drivers. She became one of the main spokeswomen against discrimination in the trucking industry, speaking out about issues such as sexual misconduct and the need for women’s bathrooms at truck stops. Bitzy’s advocacy was paramount to providing equal opportunities for women in the trucking industry and making it safer for women in these roles.