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Homepage. This page: A book from 1925 aimed at the female driver
Book on female driving

Motoring for Women.

An unusual book printed in 1925 concerned with the female driver, a rare sight in the 1920s!.

This book turned up some time ago in a secondhand bookshop, and is aimed at the aspiring female motorist, albeit written by a motoring gent.

If this book were published today, it might well be a humorous offering, seeking to take some cheap shots at the lady driver.

This book however is a practical guide to the ins and outs of piloting a 4 wheeled machine on the highways and byways of the UK, and has a fair try at dispelling myths about a woman's capability to drive that were extant 80+ years ago.

The author of Motoring for Women is John Prioleau, and he prefaces the book thus:

In this small book I have tried to present the circumstances of motor-ownership to those women at home and abroad who have yet to know the splendours of the game.
My grateful thanks are due to the proprietors of The Lady and of The Morris Owner for permission to draw upon certain of my contributions to those journals.
John Prioleau.
London, March 1925.


Below is an extract from this book which, by how he describes things as much as what he describes, captures the essence of the motoring 'game', when motoring for the masses was still very much in its infancy, and the female motorist was something to be wary of.

It goes to show that the argument about who are the best drivers, men or women, is nothing new..

Here is the introduction to this interesting motoring book:-

Motoring For Women - Introduction. (Publ. 1925)
I wonder who it is who starts panics. There must be some fearful and wonderful G.O.C. Panics, very secret and extremely underground, and, I am sorry to say, very efficient, who releases every once in a while a panic which devastates the columns of the weekly and daily papers. The panic may deal with anything from imminent war between England and France to the blazing question of flappers riding on motor-bicycle pillions. It may be a panic about the colour of the bread which your wife presses upon you at breakfast-time, or upon the designs of Moscow. It may be a doubt as to the legality of tail lamps for cows, or the infringement of the British subject's rights when he brings an empty flask within the confines of New York Harbour.

There is an extraordinarily efficient panic going on now. It appears that no woman should be allowed to drive a motor car. At least that it more or less how I read the hysterical outbursts which have been painting the pages of some of our usually placid weeklies during the past year.

I have often heard, and at times I have found occasion to approve of the imaginary regulation that no woman should be allowed access to writing materials until three days have elapsed after she has fully made up her mind what she is going to write to the last person who has annoyed her. I daresay this is wholly libellous, but I can conceive it to be slightly less insane as a regulation than the sort of prohibition which is implied in various editiorials when discuss the woman's place on the King's Highway.

It may be that a number of women would be happier and that their relations and friends might possibly be easier in their minds if they had never been taught to write letters. But just as there is no reason in depriving ourselves of the flexible charm of many thousands of women's literary work, from Terse Notes to Tradesmen to three volume novels, just because your Aunt-by-marriage uses gall instead of ink in her fountain pen when she writes to your wife, so there is even less reason to say that no woman can drive a car safely merely because you have met half a dozen on a crowded Sunday afternoon who drive badly.

It has been my lot during the last twenty years to try to teach a good many women to drive cars. This lot has not always been a happy one, but it has never failed to be an interesting one, and I must admit that, after reading the fulminations of those anti-feminists, I often wonder, not whether they have ever taught a woman to drive, but whether they have ever sat in a car which was driven by a woman. They seem to me to know extremely little about their subject; and in that respect they follow the best traditions of the best panics.

Morris 8
Provided the woman has the average allowance of brains (and it is not to be supposed that our friends the panickers are discussing any other kind of woman), she will, in my opinion, learn how to drive a car well and safely more quickly than a man who has the same kind of brains. She is quicker at understanding, from the possibly laborious explanations of what is going on while she is at the wheel, what is likely to happen in the immediate future. She has a lighter touch and is more sensitive of the 'feel'. I do not mean that she is necessarily of a mechanical turn of mind; in fact, I dare - after a great many years of profound and silent study of the question - to submit that extremely few women have got any mechanical sense at all. What I mean is that without in the least understanding the causes of things as a man would understand them, in terms of stress and speed and friction, a woman will get the main idea, the idea that really matters, with uncanny swiftness. She will avoid doing things which will entail a strain on the mechanism, not because she knows that such strain will be entailed, or because she worries that it will be entailed, but because that, knowing nothing about it at all, her instinct tells her that it is so. A good woman driver is as good and as safe a driver as the best man driver. I do not think that she is any better, because when once you get that rather exclusive class of drivers who are of the kind who allow you to go to sleep while they are driving you, there is no question any longer of age or sex or any other factor. They are just good drivers whatever else they may be.

Oddly enough, although I have, as I said, been secretly and silently pondering this matter a good many years, without daring to say the hundredth part of what has recently been written in widely-read periodicals, it was only recently that on a particularly merry three-car tour the whole matter was explained to me in a sentence by a woman driver. We were three men and three women. Two of us males drove two of the cars, and one of the women drove the third., the other three taking turns as passengers. The woman driver was a girl who drove her car for the first time about fifteen months ago, and up to that time had been regarded by her nearest and dearest as being distinctly nervous - not foolishly or 'panicky' nervous, but what is called in the best fiction 'highly strung'.

"She will never," they said complacently, "be able to drive a car."

Like all family majorities, they were entirely wrong, and she drives a car extremely well, having real sympathy with her engine and gear-box. This sympathy is absolutely instinctive, as I know for a fact that it was not until she had driven close on 10,000 miles that she had even seen the tops of her pistons, or the crown wheel of her back axle.

Continued on Page 2 of the Introduction to "Motoring For Women" ....
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