Trove Tuesday – A Lady Motorist

I just love this story I found at Trove:

Driving a Beeston Humberette, Florence Thomson travelled from Adelaide to Melbourne in March 1904 earning her the title of the first female to drive the trip.  Spurred on by her dentist husband Ben’s achievements in 1902 in completing the same trip, Florence was nothing short of a trailblazer.

The trip was not without its problems, but the thick sands of the Coorong, limited petrol availability, a puncture, and a leaky radiator did not stop Florence.  Lucky she took a mechanic along with her.

A LADY MOTORIST. (1904, March 28). The Colac Herald (Vic. : 1875 – 1918), p. 1. Retrieved November 21, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87353226

Her trip took her from Broadbeach, SA into Victoria’s Western District. Her car scared horses approaching Casterton and when she arrived in the town, she found there was “no room at the inn”. From Casterton she travelled on to Camperdown and then Geelong where she had a similar experience finding accommodation.

HOLIDAY ON MOTORS. (1904, April 2). Weekly Times, p. 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222791657

 

MRS. B. THOMSON, OF ADELAIDE, (1905, February 22). Critic (Adelaide), p. 27.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211406512

Florence did not stop there.  In 1905, she competed in the Dunlop Reliability rally from Sydney to Melbourne.

"A LADY MOTORIST." The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946) 18 February 1905: .

FLORENCE IN HER RACING GARB AND HER EVERYDAY MOTORING ATTIRE – “A LADY MOTORIST.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 18 February 1905: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140780231&gt;.

Mechanical problems at Albury looked as though they would stop Florence, but she made it to Melbourne to great adulation.

(1905, March 1). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 52. Retrieved November 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page571151

FLORENCE THOMSON ARRIVING AT THE FINISH LINE OF THE RELIABILITY TRIAL FROM SYDNEY TO MELBOURNE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/43094

FLORENCE THOMSON ARRIVING AT THE FINISH LINE OF THE RELIABILITY TRIAL FROM SYDNEY TO MELBOURNE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/43094

Mrs Florence Thomson was truly a motoring pioneer as was her husband Ben.  Both had adventurous spirits. How many men in 1904 would have allowed their wife to do what she did, while accompanied by another man, and fully support her?

Born in India, Florence Alice Vardon married Scot Benjamin Thomson in Adelaide, South Australia in 1892. In 1929, twenty-five years after her epic drive from Adelaide to Melbourne, Florence was interviewed by The News (Adelaide). The interview was published on 17 August 1929. Florence told how she learnt to drive in 1902. During her childhood, she travelled around India and Burma with her father, a member of the British Indian Army and as an adult, travelled alone throughout Europe, China and Japan.  

Cars were not her only means of transport, “I have used almost all means of locomotion,” she said, “horses, camels, palanquins, donkeys, ships, trains, elephants, bullock-drays, and push bicycles”. When asked if she had flown in an aeroplane, she revealed she was the first woman passenger to fly with Captain Harry Butler, one of South Australia’s early aviators.

In 1931, as a debate was raging as to the driving ability of women, Florence commented for The Mail (Adelaide), published on 25 April 1931,

 

"Woman's View" The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954) 25 April 1931: 11. .

“Woman’s View” The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954) 25 April 1931: 11. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58845739&gt;.

Florence died on the 28th January 1938 at her home at 200 North Terrace, Adelaide.  Ben Thomson died in Adelaide on 27 June 1944.

"FIRST WOMAN MOTORIST" News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954) 17 August 1929: 3 (SPORTS EDITION). Web. .

“FIRST WOMAN MOTORIST” News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954) 17 August 1929: 3 (SPORTS EDITION). Web. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128899444&gt;.

 

 

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