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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
January 3, 1900

Miss Florence E. Woods Can Now Driver Her Knockabout in the Park.

One of the happiest young women in New York this New Year season is Miss Florence E. Woods.  She established the record yesterday of being the first member of her sex to obtain a permit to operate an automobile in Central Park.  Miss Woods is seventeen years of age and the daughther of Clinton E. Woods, general manager of the Woods Auto-Vehicle Company of Chicago, where her home is.  She is, however, spending the Winter with relatives at 182 West Eightieth Street, and is attending school in this city.

For a fortnight past she has been seen in the uptown streets and up and down Fifth Avenue operating a smart little electric knockabout built for two.  Generally she was alone, but sometimes a girl companion accompanied her.  It occurred to her that there was no just cause or impediment why she should not drive her horseless carriage in Central Park, and about ten days ago she wrote to President Clausen  of the Park Board for a permit.  She received the answer that no permits were being given out, but toward the end of last week came another letter requesting her to call at the Arsenal with her carriage.  She went there Saturday, and Secretary Willis Holly of the park board accompanied her for a ride around the park.  She proved to his satisfaction that she was a very expert operator.  Mr. Holly so reported, with the result that the permit was issued to her yesterday.

"An automobile is the easiest thing in the world to handle," said Miss Woods last evening, "and I am astonished that women seem so timid.  Any girl could operate as easily as she could drive a pony.  You ought to have seen the sensation there was among the coachmen when I first appeared alone in my little knockabout on Fifth Avenue.  They all looked at me with astonishment and some, it seemed to me, with displeasure.  They made all sorts of remarks and followed my evolutions with great intetest.  Of course I'm very proud to be the first woman to get a permit to ride an automobile in the Park, and I shall avail myself of it the first fine morning!"

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