March is Women’s History Month, and that makes this a good time to look at one of trucking’s pioneers: Lillie Elizabeth McGee Drennan. As the first woman to receive a commercial truck driver’s license, she helped pave a way for many women to follow.
Early Life and Career
As a child, Lillie Elizabeth McGee came down with scarlet fever and would eventually lose much of her hearing. She would have to wear hearing aids for most of her adult life. After marrying Willard Ernest Drennan in 1917, the couple started their own trucking company. In order to help grow the business, she began driving her own truck. With success and a good deal of hard work, the family truck business Drennan Truck Lines continued to grow, adding more trucks and drivers and becoming a thriving business. Then, in 1929, Lillie became a divorcee – and the sole owner of the trucking company.
Sole Owner of Drennan Truck Line
As the sole owner of Drennan Truck Line, Lillie Drennan had to struggle to prove her own worth in a male-dominated field. Despite being denied her driver’s license (allegedly because of her hearing), she refused to give up. Eventually, she prevailed by showing officials that she was an experienced commercial driver with a clean driving record. They had no choice but to give her a license. For almost 24 accident-free, successful years, Lillie worked to continue building her trucking empire, freighting goods throughout East Texas.
Over time, Lillie Drennan made a national name for herself through several notable achievements, including being a woman leader in a male-dominated field and the first licensed woman truck driver. She wowed audiences with her driving at the Dallas fairgrounds by participating in the “Roadeo” obstacle course. In World War II, the army praised her for helping recruit women drivers to the war effort. Eventually, even those who gave her a hard time would recognize her skills, rewarding efforts and her flawless safety record. The LA Times called her, “a dry land tugboat Annie.” A hero to women and to those suffering from disabilities, Lillie continues to inspire many who follow in her footsteps.
For more information about how to follow in Lillie Drennan’s footsteps, and getting started on the road to your own commercial driver’s license, contact us today! If she can do it, so can you!
“Disability History Month: Drennan, Lillie Elizabeth McGee: Truck Driver (1897-1974)” Office of the Governor Greg Abbott, https://content.
“Drennan, Lillie Elizabeth McGee,” Texas State Historical Society, https://tshaonline.