You have to take your hat off for these incredible women of motor racing history. It flat-out took a lot of balls for these ladies to step onto the track and match their skills, wits & strength against the men of their day– who were macho as all hell, and would have rather left them for roadkill than share the racetrack with the females. I am truly in awe of them– they have my utmost respect.
Violette Morris dressed like a man, smoked 3 packs a day, and regularly cursed a blue streak.
Violette Morris has a story that you couldn’t make up if you tried. Simply stated, it’s just unbelievable.
Born the niece of French General Gouraud, Violette Morriswas a naturally gifted and strong athlete who excelled at sports. She was an accomplished boxer who regularly competed against and beat men. Morris also went on to become a cycling champion, later graduating to riding motorcyles and racing cars. She was so committed to auto racing that she actually had an elective double mastectomy (yes, she had her breasts removed!) so she’d be more comfortable behind the wheeled of the tight-fitting cyclecars she raced back in the 1920s. Wow.
During WWII when France was occupied by the Nazis in the 40s, Morris joined the Parisian Gestapo and worked with the notoriously brutal “rue Lauriston” interrogation squad. In 1944, while she was traveling with military colleagues by car from Normandy back to Paris, the French Resistance bombed Morris’ vehicle, killing her along with everyone else. Yup, she definitely lived life to the full and died with her boots on.
Hellé Nice, Born Mariette Helene Delangle, moved to Paris in her teens; there, she cast aside her name, her past and her clothes, posing for naughty postcards and dancing in risqué yet distingué revues at the Casino de Paris and other music halls in the era of Maurice Chevalier, Josephine Baker and Mistinguett.
In 1929, after suffering a dance-dooming knee injury while skiing away from an avalanche, Hellé Nice switched metiers, trading dance slippers for driving gloves. She soon won the Grand Prix Féminin and exulted to the press about the thrill of having a ”great roaring race car in your hands that wants only to go faster.” That early victory secured her a sleek Bugatti and the nickname ”The Queen of Speed.”
Hellé Nice, the titillating French female race car driver of the 1920s and ’30s.
Great theme for an article. One of my motoring heroes, is my fellow Norwegian Greta Molander (1908-2002) whos probably most famous for her Monte Carlos drives in various cars, but most well known, in a small SAAB. She also drove through Northern Africa together with a girlfriend in the 30’s. Wrote a great book about it as well. Real hero.
Thanks for that, I’ll definitely check it ou.
Ovaries. It flat out took a lot of ovaries for these ladies…
Violette was pretty hardcore. She may have had her ovaries removed so she’d have more room behind the wheel for all we know…
‘Ovaries’…exactly what I was going to say!
Interesting you mention this. A good friend of mine, a pattern maker in the industry for 35+ years, was a semi-pro race driver too. When I sent her this post (she’s not much for posting herself) she asked if we’d heard of Denise McCluggage. She drove a Ferrari F1 in Mexico among other events. She’s still alive and lives in Santa Fe NM. Here’s a youtube clip circa 1950
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Um, Violet has a wedding ring on her finger….
Re Violet’s ring – could have been to pass and ditch any homophobic idiot who would want a piece of her for her gender bending…or could have been there was a matching one on her “best girlfriend’s finger”…
Oh, come on! Look at her. It’s a safe bet she had a wife. But that isn’t what bothers me about Violet- Did anyone else catch the reference to her working with
the Gestapo? Seems she was also a thug. Not a good role model in my book.
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I just read a biography of Morris.
She was a sadistic fascist “woman” (she was yet a spy for the nazis before the WWII) and deserved what she got – unfortunately too late for many french resistants.
For all the French, the french gestapo (“la rue Lauriston”) and “la Milice” are the biggest stain on the french history of the XXth century.
My grand-mother told me when i was younger that in the french town where she lived during these bad times, peopole could hear the howls of the men who were tortured when they passed in the street where the local gestapo was located…
Eliška Junková raced Bugattis in the 1920’s – actually won a Grand Prix race.
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