The extraordinary story of Alice Anderson and Australia's first all-girl garage.
The story of Alice Anderson is as dramatic as any gripping narrative. Her short but eventful life (1897-1926) as pioneer of women in the motoring industry, together with her unique motoring inventions, ensured her influence both within and beyond the national stage. Not only was Alice the first woman to create Australia’s only all-girl garage, she was a leader in her field—to the ire of many a garage man.
Alice’s riches-to-rags childhood was overseen by a brilliant but flawed father who boasted such luminaries as John Monash and Walter Burley Griffin as friends and business associates. Her popularity in the ‘liberated’ 1920s saw Alice, the smart, charming tomboy-of-a-girl become the darling of Melbourne society. Clients included newspaper magnates, opera stars and a future Prime Minister. Alice and her staff were seen as young, attractive and ‘boyish’ in their overalls and masculine-style chauffeur uniforms. Behind the scenes however, nasty rumours abounded, suggesting all manner of transgressions…
One of Alice’s greatest adventures was her 1926 trip to central Australia in a Baby Austin. Her arrival in Alice Springs set a distance record for the tiny car.
However, less than a week upon her return, Alice was dead from a shotgun to the head. The truth surrounding the circumstances of her death was buried, leaving the public rumour mill to imagine everything from suicide to murder. Her loyal staff vowed to keep on but the Great Depression saw garage girls viewed as ugly ‘she-men’. Without Alice, the enterprise lost its spark and eventually disappeared. As the decades went by, Alice became a distant memory…
A Spanner in the Works is the first complete story of Alice Anderson’s life. The manuscript includes rare photographs of Alice and the garage girls as well as garage paraphernalia, interviews and letters. It traces Alice’s numerous achievements since erased from the public imagination, and reveals details of her death wrapped in a family secret kept hidden for almost a century.
Kerrie Greenwood, author of the Phryne Fisher series wrote:
This unexpected and beautifully written story of the pioneer woman driver, Alice Anderson, enthralled me. I relished the realisation of Alice's dreams set against the development of feminism in 1920s Australia. And Alice's tragic death provides a powerful end to a thrilling book...I LOVED this story
Georgine Clarsen, author of Eat My Dust: Early Women Motorists wrote:
[This] biography is fascinating.
I sat up until after midnight and read A Spanner in the Works in one sitting. I loved it. Totally. [Loretta has] wonderfully told a complicated story of a woman, her friends and family, a business, a city, a fascinating time. All the threads weave together in a way that made it impossible for me to put it down.