Back in the 1930s, Hudson Motor Company was a powerful automotive concern known for its well-done and classy cars. Hudson also had its hands in commercial vehicles under other brand names, building trucks and machines for industry. Its success in the consumer market, however, was its greatest strength with vehicles like the Hudson Commodore setting the bar.
In 1939, the company would make a decision that would change the industry forever. It hired Betty Thatcher, a new designer from the Cleveland School of Arts. Oros became the first female automotive designer in America. And she did so on her own merit, before World War II would change the workforce forever.
Oros was born Elizabeth Anna Thatcher in Elyria, Ohio in 1917. She graduated from Elyria High School in 1935 and attended the Cleveland School of Arts (now Cleveland Institute of Art), majoring in Industrial Design. She graduated with honors. She was hired by Hudson that same year.
She began work on the 1939 Hudson Big Boy truck, which I recently saw in the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, Wyoming (photo above). Oros’ contributions to the truck, which was based on the best-selling Commodore sedan, changed the appeal of the truck greatly. Though sales of the truck were short-lived, thanks to WWII, it was instrumental in Hudson’s design changes after the war.
After work on the truck was finished, Oros was given design tasks with the 1941 Hudson, where she designed the side lighting, interior instrument panel, and several other interior components including fabric trim.
In 1941, Betty married Joe Oros, who was a part of the Cadillac Studio at General Motors. To avoid conflict of interest, Betty resigned from Hudson in 1941. She went on to mother five children, to serve on the Santa Barbara Museum Board, and on the Santa Barbara Symphony League Board. Betty Thatcher Oros died in 2001. She continued to produce art throughout her lifetime.