MotorCities National Heritage Area

By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/ Researcher
Images: Courtesy of Margaret E. Sauer Portfolio / The Collection of Julie Sabit, archived by Doug Didia
Posted: 01.01.2018

file 20150113065452 Margaret Peg Sauer
One of a team of female designers known as the Damsels of Design, Margaret "Peg" Sauer (1925-1986) was a transcendent talent who blazed a trail in the male-dominated during a time when the automotive field was male dominated. Many of General Motors' early interior designs came from Sauer's creative and innovative mind. The Damsels of Design flourished under the direction of the famed Harley Earl (1893-1969), father of the Buick Y-Job and the Corvette.

Although she was known to the world as Peggy, her family and friends knew her as Peg. From 1955 to 1962, Sauer worked for General Motors styling department as an interior designer. From Oldsmobile interiors to Cadillac and Buick seat designs, Sauer created a very impressive resumé of her beautiful works of art. Sauer was also a gifted sculptor whose work reached many fans in the U.S. and overseas.
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Times were different many decades ago for women who were trying to enter into the automotive field. Sauer was one of the first success stories of a woman entering a white-collar automotive field. She is not only cosidered a pioneer for women in automotive, but she is also one of the industry's most revered designers. Sauer accomplished everything she wanted to do with her creativity, and had the ability to make her artwork look effortless with the stroke of a brush, pencil and/or pen. She was able to create magic!

G. Alden Smith, Professor Emeritus at Wayne State University once said, “My remembrances of Peg Sauer extend through decades of shared ideas, mutual respect, and happy occasions. The strength and forcefulness of Peg's work, her responsiveness to inherent qualities of the material she chose, whether stone, wood, metal or clay are immediately, almost insistently apparent.” Simply put, Margaret (Peg) Sauer was an inspirational woman!

Sauer stepped into the automotive world of artistic elegance to bring about many created powerful expressions of fine art and, in the process, became an artist of the century, capturing unique expressions of art.

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Sauer received a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art and later went on to complete her Master's Degree from Wayne State University. She established a toehold in automotive interior design when she landed a job at the Raymond Loewy Design Studios and contributed the interior styling for the 1963 Studebaker Avanti.

Later, Sauer taught at several colleges in southeast Michigan such as Henry Ford Community College, along with the Columbus College of Art and Design, Highland Park Community College, Macomb Community College and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. She inspired hundreds of students during her time as a teacher by focusing on mastering the fundamentals of styling and design.

“What inspired us was her love for drawing which spread on to us and was there to be shared by all who participated," said one student about her teaching methods.

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Sauer did not limit her talents to auto interiors having created great works of sculpture, pottery and even window displays. Many years ago, her work was exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Wayne State University, and the Columbus Museum of Art attracting fans both new and old.

When asked about Peggy Sauer, Doug Didia once said, “As an artist, it’s truly an honor to pay tribute to another artist. She mastered design form, function, and execution in every medium. I soon began to realize the scope and versatility of her life's work. It was and still is truly astonishing what she had accomplished.”

In 1986, Peggy Sauer lost her battle with cancer and she later died in Harper Hospital. This story brings to you the delightful portfolio of Margaret Peg Sauer (1925-1986) depicting her historic life's work within the automobile industry along with other aspects of her career.
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A special thank you goes out to Ms. Sauer's family, Doug & Laura Didia, Julie Sabit's collection, and the Margaret E. Sauer portfolio.

The beautiful display panels were designed by Doug Didia, Artist/Designer.