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November 10, 2021

Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland and Her Daughter at the First Meeting of the Ladies Automobile Club, 1903

The Ladies’ Automobile Club was Great Britain’s first dedicated motor club for women. It was not exclusively a motorsport association, but it was one of the first bodies to organize motor races for women in the UK.

Talk of a women’s motor club began in 1899. Newspapers described the actress Lily Langtry as one of its first members, and Viscountess Haberton as the founder. Little else was heard for three or four years. In 1903, it starts to be mentioned in the papers again, with Lady Cecil Scott Montagu was its first acknowledged leader.

Between 1903 and 1904, the original club seems to have collapsed. Contemporary reports claim this was due to disagreements about membership criteria. Only ladies in “society” were intended to join. Most of the early members were from the titled classes.

Millicent Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland, with her daughter Lady Rosemary Millicent Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, at the first meeting of the Ladies Automobile Club, 1903.

Millicent, the Duchess of Sutherland, became its first president in 1904. She oversaw the first Club event in June, a meeting and group drive from Carlton Terrace in central London to the Ranelagh Club in Barnes, via Pall Mall and the park. Fifty-six cars were involved. Many of the ladies drove themselves, although some relied on their chauffeurs. This fact was did not go un-noticed by observers. Among the observers on the day was Queen Alexandra, who watched the parade from the window at Buckingham Palace.

The club’s first annual general meeting was the following month. Rooms were acquired at Claridges Hotel for the use of members, as well as a garage.

Most of the LAC’s activities were social in nature. Typically, one member would hold a meeting at her house. This was followed by a drive out, often to the Ranelagh or Hurlingham clubs, for tea. In 1904, an engineer was booked to give a series of talks on the workings of the internal combustion engine. From time to time, other talks were given, sometimes by members themselves, on aspects of motoring, or their own four-wheeled adventures.





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