We are pleased to present a blog post written by Ashley Hinshaw about her great-grandmother, a pioneer of trucking in the United States. At the end of this post, please follow the link to a wonderful four-and-a-half minute video featuring Luella Bates by Heather T. Strong. ____________________________________________________________
As of one month ago, the name Luella Bates would have meant nothing to me, I knew zero about this woman who was my great-grandmother. I had heard no stories about her growing up; it was as if she simply did not exist in my mind. That all changed when I was contacted by Heather T. Strong, a Wisconsin truck driver who has dedicated the past year of her life to researching my great-grandmother and uncovering the truly inspiring and fascinating story of her years as one of America’s first female truck drivers.
During the difficult years of WWI, the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) factory in Clintonville, Wisconsin employed a number of women to fill the positions left empty by local men leaving for war. One of these women, Luella Bates, found her passion in test driving and demonstrating these trucks and quickly proved to be one of the best, if not THE best, at the job. Despite the equality challenges women faced at that time, FWD decided to put their faith in Luella and she became the face of the campaign to market and sell their trucks.
In a time when it was unusual for women to travel long distances for work, Luella thrived. She spent months on the road, holding demonstrations to display the new FWD trucks and their capabilities. Publications all over the US featured Luella in newspaper articles, praising her as the charming and charismatic truck driver that was more skilled than any man at the job. The New York Evening Post even printed a full-page story on her success.
As an actress, I am always on the search for a strong female role to take on, a woman who has a steadfast conviction in whatever she believes, and refuses to let opposition stop her. Luella represents the pinnacle of that for me. I am very excited to be in the process of developing a film that will bestow upon Luella’s memory the credit and appreciation she deserves. We mustn’t forget those women who have paved the way for where we are today, no matter how great or small their contribution was.