Wearing a 10-gallon hat and never without her revolver, Lillie Elizabeth Drennan was a pioneer. But she wasn’t herding cattle or settling the Wild West. Lillie conquered an entirely different frontier—the trucking industry. Lillie was the first female truck driver and blazed a trail for the nearly 150,000 women the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates are driving today.
Lillie was born in 1897 and dropped out of school after completing the fifth grade. Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, she and her second husband started their trucking business in 1928, with a single open-cab Model T Ford.
Breaking down barriers for lady truckers
Lillie went on to successfully challenge several railroad commissioners who were reluctant to give her a commercial license because she wore a hearing aid. She finally won the right to operate her own truck in 1929. When she was divorced shortly after, Lillie became the sole owner of Drennan Truck Line which she operated until 1952.
During her 24 years behind the wheel, Lillie overcame the unfair practices and sexist opposition of her competitors. She hired mostly African-American drivers and insisted on training them herself. And although she regularly drove more than 48 hours with little sleep, Lillie never had an accident. She was best known for her spunky personality, scandalous profanity and for passionately recruiting female drivers during World War II.
International Women’s Day
Without question, women like Lillie deserve our admiration for their ability to persevere through adversity. And on March 8, International Women’s Day encourages us all to celebrate the economic, political and social accomplishments of women throughout history and today. The day is meant to connect and inspire women and girls from all over the world and recognize their achievements.
Today, women work alongside men in all areas of the trucking industry from driving to fleet management, all while raising families and overcoming real-life challenges. International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity for us to encourage and celebrate these women who conquer the open road and help our businesses succeed.
Do you know a woman in the trucking industry that you’d like recognize? Tell us why and we may feature her story in a future Xata blog post.