After WWII, automobile manufacturers began to hire more women to design cars, mostly for interior aesthetics, to help make cars more marketable to postwar suburban households with two-car garages. The most well-known group of ladies was called Harley Earl’s Damsels of Design, at General Motors.
The twelve “Damsels” were Gere Kavanaugh, Jeanette Linder, Ruth Glennie, Marjorie Ford Pohlman, Peggy Sauer, Sandra Longyear, Suzanne Vanderbilt, Helene Rother, Amy Stanley, Jan Krebs, Dagmar Arnold, and Jayne Van Alstyne.
The cars that were customized by the women’s styling were beautiful, but the true impact of their work is seen in the special features they promoted which are standard equipment on cars today, such as retractable seat belts, storage consoles such as glove compartments, child-proof door locks, and makeup mirrors.
Sue Vanderbilt noted, “…we particularly enjoyed proving to our male counterparts that we are not in the business to add lace doilies to seatbacks or rhinestones to the carpets, but to make the automobile just as usable and attractive to both men and women as we possibly can.”
Here’s a short video of the Damsels of Design from our friends at the National Corvette Museum.