Damsels of Design
(current in the 1950s)
This celebrated group of women designers were recruited by leading automobile stylist Harley Earl for work in the Styling Section at General Motors. Dubbed the ‘Damsels of Design’ by the press they received significant publicity and included amongst their number Dagmar Arnold, Jane van Alstyne, and Gere Kavanaugh. Fully trained in industrial design they played an important role in establishing the credibility of women designers in a mainstream industrial context. In addition to their styling of GM car interiors and controls together with choice of textiles and colour combinations, they also worked on the styling and detailing of domestic appliances and details for the Frigidaire Production Studio. They were involved in the ‘Kitchens of the Future’ shows of the 1950s, a domestic showcase parallel to the razzmatazz of General Motors' Motoramas. Earl valued the GM ‘Damsels’ highly, both in terms of their insights into the needs and desires of women drivers and the considerable design expertise that they brought to the Styling Section. However, after Earl's retirement they lost their standing in an industry still heavily dominated by males and traditional power structures.