It's a little-known slice of auto styling history: In the 1940s and 1950s, talented female designers plied their trade at American car companies, mostly lending their expertise to vehicle interiors, but also conceiving safety and ergonomic improvements.
A new book, Damsels in Design: Women Pioneers in the Automotive Industry, 1939-1959 by Constance Smith, herself a former General Motors designer, profiles the careers of 20 female designers who entered the industry between 1939 and 1959.
Only one of the 20, GM's Suzanne Vanderbilt, made a lifetime career in the industry. The rest either pursued other avenues of industry design or became artists or teachers. Some turned to full-time homemaking. It was a different era.
"Many of these women, missing from our history books, were the most accomplished artists of mid-century America," Smith writes. "With an emphasis on safety, others proposed products that continue to save lives. Their design skills touched tens of millions of car owners. The women were the early designers of child seats, latches, adjustable lumbar buckets, and head up displays — a system of displaying information, such as speed or RPMs, in the driver's line of sight instead of below on the instrument panel."
Here are 10 of the designers profiled.