Fast Ladies: Women in Motor Sport


We stumbled upon an interesting book this week that shored up a couple of intriguing stories of women making their mark in the early days of motorsport. Here’s just a couple of vignettes.

The formidable Violette Morris (above) was the niece of a French General and was apparently a naturally gifted and strong athlete who excelled at sports.  She was an accomplished field athlete,  a boxer who regularly competed against and beat men as well as a champion cyclist. She went on to riding motorcyles and racing cars in the thirties.

In a procedure that would have any female sports star of today simultaneously wincing and admiring her unbelievable commitment, she had an elective double mastectomy so she’d be more comfortable behind the wheel. Yes. She had her breasts removed.

Another, less admirable side to Morris emerged in the 1940s, when in Nazi occupied france she apparently joined the joined the Parisian Gestapo and worked with a notorious interrogation squad. It is also documented that prior to the invasion she provided the Nazis with information of French defences.

Tasked later in the wall with defeating the British infiltrations of the Nazi regime, she was killed by the French Resistance in Normandy in 1944.

A much more palatable biography is encapsulated in the story of Hellé Nice (below) was Born Mariette Helene Delangle, moved to Paris, posing for naughty postcards and was a risqué music hall performer alongside the likes of Maurice Chevalier and Josephine Baker.

In 1929 she swapped the tights and tutus for driving gloves and canvas overalls.  She soon won the Grand Prix Féminin and earned a sought-after Bugatti drive and the and the nickname ”The Queen of Speed”.

True pioneers, whatever the aesthetic.