When is it too late to learn something new?

This Woman Learned To Drive At The Age Of 99 Back In 1901

Mrs Eva De Voe turned 99 on June 7, 1901, and shocked her very large family by telling them she wanted to learn bicycling. Present at her birthday celebration were five generations of descendants who argued with her not to try something so risky. A compromise was struck. Mrs De Voe would learn riding, not a bicycle but something “comfortable and easy-running, with a top” — something that was “safer and better for a woman of her age.”

Mrs De Voe became the owner and driver of a Century steam car, manufactured not far from her house, which was “at the corner of Kinne and West Manlius streets in East Syracuse, New York.”

Driving was a tonic for Mrs De Voe. She said it made her feel young again. It was also the culmination of her wish of 60 years. “Back in the 1840s,” she said, a hugely popular travelling preacher named Lorenzo Dow would sometimes call her children together and tell them: “You mustn’t make fun of me, but I say that the time will come in less than 100 years when people will be going around in carriages without horses, and will be able to talk with their friends hundreds of miles away.”

Dow was proved perfectly right, but Mrs De Voe had mixed up the years somewhat. The preacher had passed away in 1834, when her first husband was still living. This is not an article about Dow, but he was such a magnetic man — advertised as Presidential material by some — that these three clippings might interest you:

Mrs De Voe’s first husband died in 1839, leaving her with a brood of six; she married again in 1841, and lost her second husband in 1863. She grew older but Dow’s prophesies stayed with her, and she was fortunate to realize the one about horseless carriages herself.

Some would call cars “emancipating”, but Mrs De Voe’s reason for liking them was very practical: “there is no danger of their running away (unlike a horse)”. She also expected that “in a short time people will be sailing through the air with the same readiness that they now go around in automobiles.”

There, like Dow, she was also proved right.

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