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Driver, taxi driver, and astronaut: How women mastered “male” professions

Today, no one is surprised by women driving a car or ladies-dentists. Still, even 100 years ago, many professions were considered primordially male, and men were in no hurry to let the women into their territory.

Many women overcame real difficulties to overcome stereotypes and become the first in the “non-female” profession.

Lucy Hobbs Taylor

This brave woman was born in 1833 in a small town in the state of New York. Having worked as a teacher for almost ten years, the girl decided to get a more exciting profession. However, she did not even succeed in applying for admission to the institute because she chose a problematic speciality in which, as it was believed, women had no place.

Today it may come as a surprise, but Lucy only dreamed of becoming a dentist. Without abandoning this crazy idea, the girl began to take private lessons from a professor at the College of Dental Surgery and still opened a private practice.

Probably, at first, she also had problems with patients because, in her own words, “people were amazed when they found out that the girl was ready to forget about her femininity to study dentistry.”

After five years of successful work in this field, Lucy finally received permission to join the Iowa Dental Association and enter the College of Dental Surgery. She received her doctorate in 1866 and became the first female dentist in history. By the way, it is believed that many ladies followed in her footsteps, and by 1900 the number of certified dentists in skirts had increased to a thousand, which can be considered just an explosive development of the “non-female profession.”

Bertha Benz

With whom only women are not compared at the wheel! But the auto lady is becoming more and more. However, in this case, the men are in vain because the ladies began to drive cars almost immediately after self-propelled vehicles appeared on the roads. The first female driver is Bertha Benz, the inventor of the car, Karl Benz.

At the end of the 19th century, this technical novelty did not take root well; belching clouds of smoke and thundering iron carts were not to everyone’s liking. The business of the Benz family business was not going well. Then, to support her husband in his endeavour, a brave woman decided to take a very bold step. Taking one of the cars without asking, she put her eldest sons in it and drove to a neighbouring town.

Having travelled 200 kilometres, she showed that even a woman could handle a self-propelled car. It happened in 1888. The publicity stunt succeeded, and the car trade soon revived. By the way, after such a severe check, Berta had several ideas for improving the car, which she shared with her husband. For example, it was she who came up with the idea of a gearbox.

Elisabeth von Papp and her equestrian colleagues

Having mastered the car once, women, of course, tried to take over the professions associated with this type of transport. By the way, today, there are even women truckers, but this is still an exception to the rule since this work is challenging for the “fairer sex”.

But women taxi drivers appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1908, a German woman, Elisabeth von Papp, got behind the wheel of a taxi after she was left a widow and was forced to feed her children alone. The woman even studied at the Berlin School of Taxi Drivers, but she met very different reactions among colleagues and passengers almost all her life. With this bold step, Elisabeth was about 50 years ahead of her time – women began to master this profession en masse only after the war.

In Paris, at about the same time, there was a revolution in the minds of the townsfolk: in February 1907, the first female cabbies appeared on the streets of the city.

To pass the exam and get permission from the police, three emancipated ladies took one-month courses, which, in addition to driving rules, then included the basics of veterinary medicine and the geography of Paris and the suburbs.

The first cabbies were aristocrats, and soon they abandoned this profession, but after a couple of years, more than 40 ladies were travelling around Paris! True, literally in a few years, their number was halved. Then, the women cabbies disappeared; after all, being a horse-drawn carriage driver in any weather is quite tricky, and public opinion ridiculed the brave pioneers.

Raymonde de Laroche

In her youth, the Frenchwoman Elisa Desroches dreamed of becoming an actress, so she changed her name to a more resonant one, but she had a chance to conquer not the stage but the sky. At first, the girl was carried away by balloons and flew these devices several times.

Then she charmed the designer Charles Voisin so much that he allowed her to ride a little aeroplane, but only, of course, on the ground. However, to his great surprise, the girl immediately rose into the sky and then quite safely managed to land. A few months later, in 1910, Raymonde took part in flight competitions and received a pilot’s diploma.

True, a dangerous hobby, in the end, ruined the first woman to conquer the sky. Just a few months later, she had an accident, after which she managed to rehabilitate herself, and a couple of years later – in the second, which turned out to be fatal for her. True, in this accident, Raymond de Laroche was not to blame; she was not a pilot but an aeroplane passenger at the crash.

Valentina Tereshkova

Just fifty years later, a woman astronaut made her first flight. By the way, today, of all people who have been in space, women make up 10%. And 82-year-old Valentina, who retained not only activity but also female beauty at such an old age, continues to share her experience with young people.

“In time, spaceships will fly not only to planets but also to distant stars. And their crews will necessarily include women. After all, my flight has once again proved that women are equal to men in everything. Who now dares to claim that we are the “weaker sex”? (From Valentina Tereshkova’s interview after the flight).

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