Women’s History Month is rather significant to us at LYNC Logistics. As a female-founded company, we pride ourselves in celebrating the roles women have played throughout history in this typically male-dominated space. For this special blog, we’re going to introduce you to some of the brave women who paved the way and changed the trucking industry forever. We’ll kick things off with Luella Bates.
Meet Luella Bates. Although she is no longer with us, her legacy lives on & continues to inspire women in the transportation industry. During WWI, women stepped in and filled the gaps left by men. Bates was one of the more than 150 women hired to join the team at Four Wheel Drive Auto Co.(FWD) in Wisconsin. She was the first of six women chosen to test drive and demonstrate the company’s Model B trucks, which were used by the military. Even after the war, Bates remained at the company and was sent out on the road to show off FWD’s vehicles. She changed the trucking industry forever when she became the first female truck driver to receive a commercial license.
Adriesue “Bitsy” Gomez
Meet Adriesue “Bitsy” Gomez. As a little girl, Gomez had a love for trucking. According to a Time article from 1976, she admitted that as a child, she would play hooky so that she could stay home and watch for trucks. As an adult, she entered the male-dominated industry and quickly learned that women were not treated equally. This lit a fire inside of her, and she set out on a mission to change the culture. Gomez is credited with launching the Coalition of Women Truck Drivers. This group of 150 women joined forces to fight against the discrimination and sexism women faced in the trucking industry. In addition, she fought to raise awareness and end the sexual harassment of female truck drivers. Other issues the group aimed to address included the lack of women’s restrooms at truck stops, the need for on-the-job training for women joining the industry, removing unnecessary testing requirements for women who were already licensed, and making trucks more accessible to female drivers by adding adjustable seats and pedals. Gomez told Time, “A good truck is to a woman what a man ought to be. Big and strong and takes you where you want to go. When a woman gets into a semi, it makes up for all the crap women take in our society.”
Meet Lillie Drennan. In 1928, she and her then-husband, Willard Ernest Brennan, opened the Drennan Truck Line (DTL) in the state of Texas. The following year, Drennan was ready to get her commercial license and become the first licensed female truck driver in the state. However, she faced adversity when she went to get her license. She had lost a good bit of her hearing following a bout with scarlet fever, and the Railroad Commission examiners, who supervised the motor freight industry in Texas, claimed she should not be granted a license due to her disability. However, Drennan fought and accused the examiners of discrimination. She won the fight, and she also became the sole owner of DTL that same year after she and her husband divorced. For the next twenty-plus years, she remained the woman in charge. She was praised for her impeccably safe driving record. Drennan opened the door for other women to follow in her footsteps and own their own trucking companies.
Benzie Ola “Rusty” Dow
Meet Benzie Ola “Rusty” Dow. Better known as Rusty Dow, she made her mark on history when she became the first woman to drive the entirety of the Alaska Highway, also known as ALCAN. The attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 forced the construction of the highway connecting Alaska to the mainland to be rushed. Dow, who was a driver for the engineering division at Fort Richardson Army Post, told the Alaska Defense Command’s commanding general during World War II that she wanted to take a shot at driving the ALCAN. In June of 1944, Dow’s dream came true as she set off on a trip to transport five tons of cement in a Studebaker 6×6. Throughout her journey, she faced discrimination and had her orders checked multiple times by those who questioned their legitimacy. However, she did not let that stop her from completing her assignment. In the span of seven days, Dow drove 1,560 miles from Fairbanks, AK, to Dawson Creek in British Columbia, Canada. Dow was described by the Saturday Evening Post as “the dean of women war workers in Alaska.”
One Last Word
These are just a few snapshots of women who have changed the transportation industry. Although many of the pioneers have passed on, their legacies still inspire us every day. Before we wrap this blog up, we’d like to highlight a few other women who deserve recognition:
- Alice Huyler Ramsey – First woman to drive coast to coast
- Ellen Voie – Founder of Women in Trucking
- Mazie Lanham – First female driver for UPS
- Mary Fields – First African American woman to carry mail on the Star Route for USPS
- Ivery Stokes – First African American woman to drive a truck for Walmart
- Edwina Justus – First African American locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad
We would also be remiss if we did not honor our founder, Cindy Lee. You can learn more about her inspiring story in a special blog we wrote called The Leading LYNC: Cindy Lee.
To every woman who is continuing to make a difference in the logistics and trucking industry, thank you. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.