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.”
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 male drivers of their day– who were macho as all h*ll, and would have rather left them for roadkill than share the racetrack with the females. I am truly in awe of them– and they definitely have my utmost respect. Especially when you consider the level of personal sacrifice, and the competitive extremes some of them went to-
Violette Morris has a story that you couldn’t make up if you tried. Simply stated, it’s just unbelievable. She was a dominating force on the racing scene who took to dressing like a man, smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day and regularly cursed a blue streak.
Born the niece of French General Gouraud, Violette Morris was 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.