The fascinating and intriguing story of Alice Anderson and her ‘garage girls’ is the subject of a new exhibition at the National Motor Museum in the Adelaide Hills township of Birdwood.
Anderson was Australia’s first female garage proprietor and employed an all-female staff with post-WWI ambitions to turn garage work into a suitable career for women. Historian Loretta Smith has helped create the exhibit, the story of how she became interested in Alice is just as fascinating as Alice's story itself.
She opened her garage, ‘Alice Anderson’s Motor Service’ in 1919 after she purchased a block of land in Kew, Victoria. The garage offered petrol sales, vehicle repairs, a driving school, a 24-hour chauffer experience and also organised tourist parties on interstate trips.
Anderson was a pioneer in the automotive industry. Her achievements included, but were not limited to, being the first person to invent a wheelie device to roll under cars, similar to those used in garages today. Her death in 1926 at the young age of 29 remains a mystery to this day and whether it was an accident that ended her life continues to be the subject of study and discussion.
The exhibition will recreate Anderson’s garage and explore her life through the challenges and obstacles she faced, most importantly what it was like to be a woman in the automotive industry in early 20th Century Australia.
The semi-permanent exhibition will be open at the National Motor Museum from 18 November.