Who invented the stripes on our roads?

When we are driving our cars or riding public transit, we most likely do not give much thought to the stripes on the roads. We take them for granted to keep us in line and at a safe distance from the cars alongside us or those coming in the opposite direction. These stripes were not part of the infrastructure in the early twentieth century. Until 1924, there was little separating Model T Fords on two lane roads from other cars and horse and buggies. It was a gun-toting woman doctor, the incredible Dr. June McCarroll, who came up with a “brilliant” idea to improve road safety.

One evening in 1917, after visiting a patient and driving home in her model T Ford, a large truck roared toward McCarroll in the center of the pavement and forced her off the road into the sand. In her own words: “My Model T Ford and I found ourselves face to face with a truck on the paved highway. It did not take me long to choose between a sandy berth to the right and a ten-ton truck to the left!” This was not McCarroll’s first experience of narrow escapes with cars and trucks especially while riding her horse and buggy. She was also seeing many more patients who were suffering from injuries that resulted from automobile accidents.

McCarroll knew there had to be a better way. Why not a line down the road? She presented her idea to the California Riverside County Board of Supervisors and the local Chamber of Commerce. They were polite and listened to her every word, but they courteously rebuffed her idea and quietly shelved it.

McCarroll was tenacious. In her long dress and a bonnet, she got down on her hands and knees and “painted” a 4-inch wide stripe down the middle of US Highway 99, which ran in front of her home to create two separate lanes. There are varying accounts of how she did this, and the most noted one is that she painted a two-mile long strip. Another version is that she used baking flour and striped a mile-long white line down the middle of the road. This most likely was the first stripe in Riverside County, the state, and probably in the United States. She then launched a letter writing campaign and distributed petitions to the state and county to incorporate the use of lines down all county and state highways. This effort continued for seven years without any success until McCarroll organized an Indio Women’s Club. The Club then received support from the County, District, and State Federations of Women’s Clubs. She petitioned the California State Legislature to ratify a law authorizing the California Highway Commission to stripe all state roads. When the legislators recognized that thousands of women club members backed this legislation, and women could now vote, they quickly passed the law to mandate that all roads and highways be painted with a dividing stripe. This amazing doctor added inventor after her name and has been credited with saving thousands of lives and improving the safety of the roads.

The community of Coachella Valley has honored her in a touching way. They requested that a portion of Interstate 10 between Jefferson Street and Indio Boulevard be dedicated as the Dr. June McCarroll Memorial Freeway. The legislation was passed in 2000, and the dedication took place on April 24, 2002. In addition, a bronze plaque attached to a six-foot-high concrete pillar in Indio was erected in her honor and dedicated in October 2003.

Dr. June McCarroll was a fascinating women and an exceptional doctor. Let me share one other piece of information about her. In 1907, the Bureau of Indian Affairs appointed her as the first doctor to care for hundreds of thousands of Cahuilla Indians living on five tribal reservations, a massive area that spanned from the Salton Sea to Palm Springs. The Indian medicine men regarded her as the “white medicine man” and highly respected her as she saved the lives of thousands of children from a devastating measles epidemic.

To learn more about other remarkable women who contributed to the growth of the newly created state of California you can always check out Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present.

Please share your thoughts~~Hannah

Equality in Hollywood?

No. Equality for women does not exist in the wonderland of Hollywood. Women producers, directors and writers are vastly underrepresented. The industry and those in it will agree is run by money, for money and at its core is about money. How can more women make inroads in the major areas of creativity and production? A recent opinion article in the New York Times, “How Can Women Gain Influence in Hollywood?discussed several points of view with interesting ideas to challenge the industry to create more opportunities for women. To read article, click here.

The consensus is that women must be resolute and continue to fight for increased representation in all facets of the entertainment business.  This may not be an especially creative solution, but not giving up is the only solution.  The history of Hollywood has many examples of women who have been remarkably successful. They achieved success by being strategic, tenacious, and applying their talent and brains. Primarily, they did not walk away from the challenges and discrimination they faced daily. And yes, there is progress, but unfortunately, inequality is alive and well in Hollywood and the struggle continues.

Today I would like to introduce you to an extraordinary trailblazer who made it possible for other women to work their way through the maze of Hollywood’s “good ole boy network.” I learned about this “forgotten” Hollywood hero while I was writing Women Trailblazers in California: Pioneers to the Present. Please meet Dorothy Arzner.

Arzner, born  in 1897, was a noted film director during Hollywood’s’ Golden Age.   Sexism was a dominate feature in the film industry when Dorothy Arnzer decided to embark upon a career in editing and script writing in the early 1920s. In spite of this environment, she became the only female director during the post silent boom of Hollywood filmmaking and the first female member of the Directors Guild of America. Her exceptional talent was quickly recognized by the leaders of the industry, and Arnzer moved from typing, editing, and writing scripts, to directing for Paramount studios.   She made history by directing Paramount’s first sound movie and then transformed film sound technology by essentially creating the first boom mike. During her career as a director from 1928 to 1943, Arzner was able to make a smooth transition from directing three silent movies to fourteen “talkies.”Between the years 1927-1932, Arzner directed eleven feature films for Paramount and then left to work on her own.  RKO hired her to direct Katharine Hepburn, their new star, in Christopher Strong.

Arzner was not a typical Hollywood luminary; she did not fit whatever that illusion was. Her life, her persona, and her films were not the expected norm for that era. It was no secret that Arzner was a lesbian and lived for more than four decades with dancer and choreographer Marion Morgan who appeared in some of her movies. Dressed in suits, ties, and short hair combed tightly back, she emitted an authoritarian demeanor. This may have been her way to portray herself as “the man in charge” and to fit into the Hollywood boy’s club.

Although she established the largest oeuvre by a woman director, her work had been practically excluded in accounts of film history. Not until the 1970’s and the rediscovery of her work in a project of feminist film studies, did she finally receive the critical acclaim she deserved.   During the rise of the feminist movement in the 1960’s and 70’s, when Arzner’s career and works were “rediscovered,” the younger feminist film scholars described her films as challenging the dominant, male oriented society of the times. Arzner, however, did not want to be boxed in and labeled as a gay or woman director.  She was, above all, a director. For women who wanted a career in film, she became a role model. For feminist film scholars, she was the subject of much debate. These younger women wanted to give Arzner the recognition that eluded her and believed she deserved from her generation.

The Directors Guild in 1975 honored her with a “Tribute to Dorothy Arzner.” Katharine Hepburn sent a telegram which read: Is it wonderful that you’ve had such a great career, when you had no right to have a career at all.” Arzner’s noted quote is “When I went to work in a studio, I took my pride and made a nice little ball of it and threw it right out the window.” This quote perfectly described Arzner and how she became an acclaimed director in a predominantly male industry.

Women like Arzner had to continuously struggle for the status they deserved. It may be distressing that several generations later, talented, creative and exceptional women are still on an uphill road to “make it” it Hollywood. However, Arzner and some of the brilliant young directors of today are exemplary of the success that is within reach.

Please share your thoughts.