Grave of Anne Rainsford French in Concord, Massachusetts


There are numerous historic cemeteries within Massachusetts and one of the most renowned is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord. It is home to Author’s Ridge: the resting place of numerous iconic literary figures, such as Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But authors aren’t the only esteemed residents of the cemetery. They share the soil with a remarkable woman, Anne Rainsford French, the first woman ever to get a driver’s license in the United States. 

French was around 21 years old and living in Washington, D.C., when, on March 22, 1900, she obtained a Locomobile Class of a Steam Engineer’s License, which allowed her to operate four-wheeled vehicles powered by either steam or gas. This early permit made her the first woman in the United States legally licensed to operate an automobile.

One source states that another woman named “Mrs. John Howell Philips” of Chicago obtained a license in 1899, but the validity of this claim is uncertain while French’s license can be conclusively verified.

In September 1952, French was interviewed by Life Magazine in which she revealed she only drove for a few years but during that time she never made an improper signal, never dented a fender, never exceeded the speed limit, and was never pulled over by the police. If you are interested in the history of early automobiles, her headstone is worth taking a look at if you’re in the area.





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