These days, a woman touring the United States by car alone or with her children doesn’t seem like an unusual concept. However, this was a rare occurrence in the late 1940s. The Shell Oil Company realized during this time that women drivers in the United States were an untapped market, so the public relations department founded their first program directed at women. The program was based on family automobile touring and the company created a fictional persona as their spokesperson: “Carol Lane, Women’s Travel Director.” The Schlesinger Library contains the papers of Caroline Iverson Ackerman, aviator, journalist, and the first Carol Lane to be hired by Shell Oil Company.
Caroline Iverson Ackerman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated with a degree in journalism and education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1939. In the spring of 1942, Life magazine recruited Ackerman, who was a certified pilot, to be an aviation researcher, developing aviation-related picture stories. Ackerman was promoted to aviation editor at the age of 26 and continued in that position for the duration of World War II.
In 1947, Ackerman, like many other women in the workforce, was released from her job after the soldiers returned from the war. She left Life and was hired by Shell Oil Company. Ackerman traveled the United States under the pseudonym, Carol Lane to get women on the road and vacationing (and of course buying more Shell gasoline). She gave presentations to women's groups, providing them with tips on how to pack a suitcase efficiently, basic navigation, how to entertain children in the car, and finding child-friendly destinations for weekend trips (which she called "tourettes"). Ackerman also wrote a syndicated weekly column, "Tips on Touring," and appeared on radio and TV shows as a travel expert.
Ackerman eventually got married, leaving Carol Lane behind, but the pseudonym lived on, as other women took on the name on behalf of Shell Oil Company in a variety of US regions and encouraged women to travel efficiently and safely.
To find out more about the Caroline Iverson Ackerman Papers, visit the Schlesinger Library in person or online.