01 July 2022
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Oscar Wilde commented, ‘My dear boy, no woman is a genius – women are the decorative sex.’ Sadly this opinion was not uncommon, and it was regarded as positively outrageous and shocking if a woman considered motoring at all, let alone enter a road race!
When Brooklands opened in 1907, it was the first purpose-built racetrack in the world, enabling the great marques to compete against one another. But initially, the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club (BARC) did not permit women to race on the circuit.
A racing class, the Bracelet, was set up for women race drivers; sadly, following the Bracelet, the BARC decided that women would not be permitted to race at their meetings. Declaring there were no lady jockeys, so why should there be female racing drivers?
The press was outraged, but the officials remained resolute.
There is no doubt that after WWI, during which women had served their country and expected to take on men’s roles, Brooklands helped ‘launch’ them further and thus provided them access to a male-dominated sport which was initially only for the affluent.
It was not until 1928 when the BARC finally conceded by allowing women to compete in Ladies-only Handicaps, and after yet more pressure, they were finally allowed to test their skills against the men in 1932.
The significant influence had by women on motor racing, especially in the sport’s formative years, has been largely forgotten. Particularly unfortunate when you consider the enormous odds that these ladies had to overcome even to be allowed into a car in the first place – let alone permitted to race shoulder-to-shoulder with men.
Perhaps the best-known all-female marketing initiative of the 1930s came about via MG, who ran several women-only Le Mans entries in the middle of that decade under the banner of The Dancing Daughters, after a popular variety act. The drivers were: Margaret Allen & Coleen Eaton, Doreen Evans & Barbara Skinner, Joan Richmond & Joan Simpson.
All powerhouses not to be reckoned with.