Fast Women: The Legendary Ladies of Racing

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In the early fifties, a hot new lineup of foreign cars arrived on the American scene -- Porsche, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, MG, Aston-Martin -- bringing with it a new era of race car competition that would entice not only men but women. Fast Women is the story of exceptional women who competed against the best of the men, asserting themselves in the risky, macho, and highly competitive sport of auto racing. From New York to California, these fiery women burned rubber.

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2007 Hard cover New in very good dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 311 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

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2007 Hardcover 1st edition New. Hardcover. 311 pages. New in dust jacket. 1401352022. Illustrated with b&w photos.

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Overview

In the early fifties, a hot new lineup of foreign cars arrived on the American scene -- Porsche, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, MG, Aston-Martin -- bringing with it a new era of race car competition that would entice not only men but women. Fast Women is the story of exceptional women who competed against the best of the men, asserting themselves in the risky, macho, and highly competitive sport of auto racing. From New York to California, these fiery women burned rubber.

Among this group of daring women was lady of leisure Evelyn Mull. Mull got her start in auto racing after accompanying her husband to a race, then impulsively deciding to enter herself. She quickly became a leading driver on the amateur circuit in the late 1950s.

Unlike Evelyn, Denise McCluggage didnt come from old money. Covering the sport for the New York Herald Tribune, she was a sportswoman with the temperament of an artist. In her Greenwich Village neighborhood, there were two rare MG-TCs on the block: hers and the one belonging to a struggling young actor named Steve McQueen. It was inevitable that the two would meet and engage in a brief romance and an even longer friendship. In 1957, Denise began rivaling Evelyn for the top spot among women drivers.

Fast Women brings to life a group of intrepid women from the beginning of the sport to its heyday in the fifties in a narrative that possesses the dramatic velocity of great fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Variety film critic McCarthy (Howard Hawks, 1997) highlights women's roles in the annals of automobile racing. Formula 1 fans and NASCAR aficionados, as well as those for whom Danica Patrick opened up the world of auto racing, might be shocked to learn that a number of women figured prominently in the sport from its late-19th-century infancy. The heyday for women racers in the U.S., notes the author, came during the 1950s, that notoriously celebrated decade of domesticity. Particularly the years 1953 through 1958 marked what McCarthy calls "a privileged moment in the grand sweep of American automobile racing, a small window of time when the sport was accessible to virtually anyone with a desire to pursue it; if you had a car and were good enough, you could drive it to a track and race. Women included." While McCarthy spotlights the gossip column-like lives and impressive achievements of Evelyn Mull, Denise McCluggage, Ruth Levy and Mary Davis-all gifted racers of the period-he also frames their triumphs within the broader context of other groundbreaking or just sensational events for women and the car in general. One such moment occurred in June 1909, when Alice Ramsey, a 22-year-old mother from Hackensack, departed New York City in her $1,500 windowless, gas gauge-less, four-cylinder, 30-horsepower Maxwell DA and became the first woman to drive across the continent, arriving in San Francisco almost two months later. Another took place in 1934, when Elfreida Mais decided to attempt a different sort of record by driving her car through a burning wall packed with dynamite; needless to say, this automotive first proved to be her last act. Though somewhat disjointed, McCarthy's vividlyepisodic account runs the gamut from behind-the-scenes partying to the fascinating variety of records women attempted, representing not only the obvious tests of speed and distance, but also those of physical endurance. An entertaining and important look at an often unexamined page in sports history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401352028
  • Publisher: Miramax Books
  • Publication date: 5/16/2007
  • Pages: 320

Meet the Author

Todd McCarthy is the longtime chief film critic at Variety. He is the author of the 1997 biography Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood, which is widely acclaimed as one of the best accounts of a film director's life. McCarthy wrote and co-directed the award-winning documentary film Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography, and won an Emmy for writing Preston Sturges: the Rise and Fall of An American Genius. His work has appeared in many anthologies and publications, including Esquire, Film Comment, Los Angeles and Cahiers du Cinema.
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