During Women’s History Month in March, we’re highlighting exceptional women and their contributions to the transportation industry.
Helen Shultz is the first of our three features.
Helen founded the first female-owned bus company in Iowa, called Red Ball Transportation, in 1922. She started with two daily round trips between Charles City, IA and Waterloo, IA. At first, her passengers were mostly women on shopping day trips and traveling salesmen.
Helen endured some initial business struggles, however Red Ball was still able to grow. By the fall of 1923, it was the leading bus company in Iowa, with 11 large coaches and a reputation for reliability. By the late 1920s, it had routes extending through the northern half of Iowa, connecting such cities as Des Moines, Mason City, Charles City, Waterloo, Spirit Lake and Algona.
The Des Moines Register named Helen “The Iowa Bus Queen”.
In 1930, she sold the business for $200,000 to the Minnesota-based Jefferson Highway Transportation Company, which is still in business today. Following her “retirement” from Red Ball, she managed an auto service station and then took over her father’s farm. She died in 1974 at the age of 76.
Check back throughout the month as we feature more impressive women who have influenced the transportation industry.