Women’s motoring face masks & PPE

Photo taken at night time of a light blue (teal) motorcycle parked outside a restaurant/bar that has a neon sign above the restaurant that reads "Bar Italia" and the colours in the bike match the neon sign. There are some people standing outside and inside, so it feels like a busy, happening place. There what looks like an older man sitting at a table just outside, and he's wearing a red hat that looks a bit like a beret.

From 100-Year-Old Women’s Motoring Masks to Contemporary PPE: A Socio-Political Study of Persistent Problems and Inventive Possibilities

Peer-reviewed research by: Dr Kat Jungnickel and Dr Katja May

When it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE), how can we better understand tensions between citizenship and safety? In this open-access article, the author’s draw on inventions between 1900-1925 from Canada, England, France and the USA to consider what the possibilities present in patents for face masks by and for women motorists reveal about safety and citizenship. Check out the abstract below, and then click through to read the full article. 


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment became central to daily news. Face masks may have been critical, but they were clearly not equally designed or distributed, compelling many health workers to make their own. These issues are neither new nor specific to health-oriented fields. We offer insights from another case of individuals taking personal protective equipment into their own hands. We analyse patents for women’s motoring face masks invented in the USA, Canada, England and France (1900–1925). Our findings suggest that women invented and wore face masks not only to drive safely, but to position themselves as legitimate motorists and as citizens with equal rights to technology, public space and resources at the turn of the last century. We propose that a study of historic motoring face masks might offer insights into persistent problems and inventive possibilities relating to contemporary personal protective equipment.

Click here to read the full open-access article, published in 2023 in the journal Sociology.

Full Reference //

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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