Circa 1920s– Lillian La France in her early Motordrome riding days. This must be 1924, or so. She looks a little green, and that signature smile and exuberant confidence is not quite present.
“It was the thrill of risking my life that made me to take to drome riding. I was the girl who flirts with death. From childhood I was inspired by wanderlust. I was always alone, dreaming of adventures– how to ride a pony out West, to follow my calling to fame. This was my secret. I shared it with no one.”
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.
As a kid I recall catching glimpses of old Roller Derby matches on t.v. and being absolutely fascinated by what I saw. Tough as nails gals, some pretty and some just pretty rough– speeding around the track pulling hair, throwing elbows, and sending each other flying around, and even off the track. All I know is I wanted more. The sport is still alive and well today, but these vintage skaters possess a magical naivete and quality that just can’t be replicated. Count me as a fan.
Midge Brasuhn of the Brooklynites.