Driving Out Oppression

Driving Out Oppression

In October 2010, a fleet of over 40 limo drivers was hired to drive Saudi Arabian Prince Abdul-Rahman and his family while he visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The fleet’s three female drivers were fired on their second day of work after the Prince said he didn’t want to be driven by women.

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At the time of his visit to Rochester, Prince Abdul-Rahman was Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense. He, former King Fahd, Crown Prince Salam, and their four brothers are some of the most powerful men in Saudi Arabia.

The three female drivers Prince Abdul-Rahman fired, Gretchen Cooper, Barb Herold, and Lisa Boutelle, were amazed that in the year 2010 in Minnesota they had been fired for being women. They decided to call Gender Justice, and we helped them file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

While we fight for women drivers in Rochester, we want to recognize and honor that Rochester, Minnesota, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are connected. That’s why Gender Justice held a drive-in protest in solidarity with the 2011 #Women2Drive campaign to lift the ban on driving for women in Saudi Arabia.

Two years later Barb and Gretchen met #Women2Drive activist Manal al-Sharif when she was visiting the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. The connection between the women from Rochester and the Saudi activist was immediately clear when we showed Manal a picture from our drive-in protest in the Star Tribune. Manal recognized it instantly from having seen it everywhere at home in Saudi Arabia:

“I love the picture of Gretchen with her daughter, Naima. It was crazy, that picture! Saudis would hang it all over. Everyone was asking, who is this girl?”

In 2012 the EEOC investigators granted Gender Justice the right to sue Prince Abdul-Rahman and the hiring agencies he used.

In the spring of 2016, the judge found in favor of our clients and awarded them significant monetary damages. Gender Justice was also awarded attorneys’ fees. Unfortunately, despite our best attempts, we have been unable to collect on these awards from Prince Abdul-Rahman and our clients continue to be denied full justice for the discrimination they experienced.


The Star Tribune covers Barb, Lisa, & Gretchen’s lawsuit (2012)

MPR News covers the Drive-In and the #Women2Drive Campaign (2011)

The Star Tribune covers the Drive-In and the #Women2Drive Campaign (2011)

News Updates

Manal al-Sharif meets Gretchen Cooper, Barb Herold, & their Gender Justice attorneys
This tribute song was written and performed by Erin Byrne, in support of Saudi women, the #women2drive campaign, and the Rochester women drivers.

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