Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Seventeen-year-old Jeanne is outnumbered and nervous but her face doesn’t show it. Men’s voices clamber around her as she steps in to the auto body classroom. When the instructor looks up and sees her standing in the door way, fumbling with her class schedule, he determines she’s lost. “The band room is next door,” he says. She clears her throat. “I’m actually here for the suspension class.” she says coolly. The room goes quiet as they all turn to look.
Jeanne Shaw has had a passion for automotives throughout her life. She has used this to follow a career and break the stigma of a normally male dominant profession.
“When I first started, I was younger and didn’t have a lot of experience,” said Shaw. “It was very hard to get someone to even take the time to talk to me just because I was a girl.”
Shaw first learned about cars when she was just a child. Most little girls her age were interested in makeup. Automotive repair was a curiosity and passion sparked in her at a young age.
“I was really young when I got into cars,” Shaw said. “My grandpa was my care giver growing up and he was a mechanic. So, when grandpa would be working on the car, I’d be right there with him.”
Some of her earliest memories are of her and her grandpa in the garage or under the hood of a car.
“My grandpa had an Old Willy’s Jeep and the whole front end of those can be taken out with a phillips head screwdriver,” Shaw said. “One day, he handed me a screwdriver and said, “Go away. Go play.”
“I remember him saying he needed to change a headlight so I went and dismantled the whole front end for him. I had everything laid out and organized just the way that he did it when he was working. I went up to him and said, ‘Grandpa, you can change your headlight.’ When he came outside and looked at it, the look on his face told me I was in trouble but then when he saw that everything was all in order, I think he was impressed.”
From that moment on, she knew she had a passion for cars and she didn’t know why, but no one could keep her out of the garage.
“Early on, I did a lot of brakes, oil changes, tune-ups, you know, the simple stuff and then when I was in high school I took auto shop and I learned to rebuild engines,” she said. “When I was in high school I always chose automotive as my elective because that was my thing. I’ve always been the only girl in the class. It wasn’t so bad back then because we all knew each other.”