Automotive History Spotlight: Helene Rother

It’s Women’s History Month this March, and we at Buying Cars Her Way are celebrating it every week by honoring some of the many women who have influenced the history of automobiles and driving. Last month, we already learned all about Mary Anderson, who invented the world’s first windshield wiper. This month we’ll start by jumping inside the car and taking a look at the interior, which was greatly influenced by a woman named Helene Rother.

Helene RotherRother was born in 1908 in France, where she worked as a designer of jewelry and other fashion accessories. However, she and her daughter, Ina, had to flee the Nazi-occupied home they’d come to love in 1941. It wasn’t smooth sailing, however. Their escape led the mother and daughter on a whirlwind of adventure, including a two month stay at a displaced persons camp in Africa and then time spent in Casablanca. At long last, the duo arrived in America, where Rother eventually joined the General Motors interior styling staff in 1943—even though she had absolutely no automotive experience.

By accepting this job, Rother became the very first female automotive designer. Eventually, however, she earned enough experience to open her very own design studio, specializing in automotive interiors, as well as furniture and stained glass windows. Her very first account was the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, so if you ever find yourself behind the wheel of a Nash car from 1948-1956, chances are you’re sitting on a seat designed personally by Rother.

After the Nash account, however, Rother moved onto something a little more chilling—she became a hearse interior designer for Miller-Meteor because, hey, even in the afterlife, folks appreciate a good car, right?

So in this first week of Women’s History Month, we salute the inspiring automotive pioneer, Helene Rother, and thank her kindly for all her achievements.

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