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Fay Taylour, 'The World's Wonder Girl' (Hardback)

A Life at Speed

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Biography P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Dr Stephen M Cullen
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 30 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399099387
Published: 28th November 2023

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Fay Taylour (1904-1983) remains the most successful female motorsports champion. She defeated the foremost male motorcycle speedway stars of the 1920s and 1930s. A household name in Britain and her native Ireland, she won further fame on the track in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Her successes against men led to a ban on women competing against them in the UK, but Fay Taylour carried on, racing around the world. She also built a new career in long distance car racing and carved a name for herself in the new sport of midget car racing.

All of this came to a halt with the outbreak of the Second World War, which, controversially, saw Fay Taylour join Oswald Mosley’s fascist movement and become part of an underground pro-Hitler campaign in London. She was imprisoned for three years by the British authorities. After the war, she was one of the very few pre-war women motorsports champions to return to the track. She re-established her career with highly successful tours in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, before moving to the USA. There she first sold sports cars in Hollywood before returning to midget-car racing across America. Later banned from the USA for her earlier politics, she again took to racetracks around the world, competing against the world’s best well into her fifties.

This first full biography of Fay Taylour is based on her extensive personal papers, media reports of her racing career around the world, and decades of UK government security files. It covers Taylour’s life on and off the track, her struggles with sports and security authorities, her battles against anti-female prejudices, and her many passionate love affairs.

a must read for anyone interested in the life of Fay Taylour. His forensic and systematic descriptions of her incredibly diverse racing career more than justifies the purchase price. But it is the deeper examination of Taylour’s downfall that Cullen really shines. Cullen understands the world leading up to World War II in Britain, and how Taylour essentially serves as a cypher for the time period. The circumstances and descriptions that surrounded Taylour’s internment are incredibly vivid, and are in many ways the highlight of this excellent work.

Brian Manning

"Fay Taylour is the wonderfully and fully written biography about the lady and her entire life 1904 1983. During her competitive years she was an international sensation first on two, then in four wheeled go fasts; but there were more facets to the lady as this fascinating book reveals."

Society of Automotive Historians' Journal

Reviewed in speedreaders.info

Helen V Hutchings

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fay Taylour, 'The World's Wonder Girl' is an intricately crafted, honest (sometimes brutally so), and fascinating memoir and biography of early motorsports icon Fay Taylour by Dr. Stephen M. Cullen.

The point with biography is that the book captures the essence of the subject. The author does an impressive job of context, the social realities of entrenched sexism of the time period, whilst at the same time rendering Ms. Taylour's accomplishments and her life accessible and understandable to modern readers.

The biography format is chronological, setting the subject's early life, growing up in Ireland, move to England, learning to ride a motorbike, and progression into motorsports. It's very often poignant and each successive victory on the part of Ms. Taylour comes *despite* every obstacle (and they were legion) thrown in her way. The author has a knack of remaining academically rigorous and factual, whilst conveying the pathos and frustration of her life. The author also doesn't shy away from the WW2 period and her association with Mosley's brown shirts and the British Union of Fascists, as well as her subsequent detention and incarceration.

Although it's very well annotated and rigorously supported throughout, the language is layman accessible and the whole is readable and easily understandable by non-academics. The links and resources are comprehensive and will provide many hours of further reading. The book includes a modest number of archival photographs from the Fay Taylour archives as well.

Five stars. I recommend it unreservedly to lovers of biography, motorsports history, nonfiction, etc.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Article: How the wheels came off the Queen of Speed

Daily Express

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I had never heard of Fay Taylour before and it worked overall. Dr Stephen M Cullen does a great job in writing this book and had me engaged with what I was reading. It was a interesting read and it left me wanting to read more.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fay Taylour is someone who deserves far greater recognition in the world of Motorsport. From shaking the male-dominated world of Speedway in its formative years of the 1920's and 1930's and later enjoying considerable success in several branches of motorsport on 4 wheels. Never a token presence Ms Taylour consistently broke records and beat the leading male riders and drivers in their fields.

This excellent book by Dr Stephen M Cullen tells the full story of a fascinating woman, often in her own words from her diaries. A strong woman she held her ground, whether on the Motorsport track or under pressure from the authorities when her views got her into trouble during the Second World War, leading to her incarceration. Far from boring the part of the book detailing her political leanings is a fascinating insight into the quite surprising level of support for the Nazis in Britain during WW2,and even just afterwards. That support came at a cost for Ms Taylour and she was under surveillance by the security services until well into old age.

This is far more than a mere list of Fay Taylour's Motorsport achievements, impressive though they are, it's a well-written and quite riveting autobiography of a fascinating life.

NetGalley, Dave Blendell
Dr Stephen M Cullen

About Dr Stephen M Cullen

After studying at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, Dr Stephen M. Cullen taught economics, history and politics at independent schools.  He has published many papers and articles on twentieth-century history, in particular on the world wars, fascism, Jewish political activism, and the Home Guard. He is the author of In Search of the Real Dad’s Army: The Home Guard and the Defence of the United Kingdom 1940-1944 and World War II Vichy French Security Troops, and is a senior research fellow at the University of Warwick.

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