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Speed Queens (Hardback)

A Secret History of Women in Motorsport

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Sport P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > By Century > 21st Century Women of History

By Rachel Harris-Gardiner
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Trailblazing Women
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399065214
Published: 6th March 2023


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Speed Queens is a history of women in motorsport, from the very beginning in 1897 to the modern era. Tracing the different ways that women have found into motor racing and rallying, it covers over a century of stories across the world. Each chapter takes a particular event as an introduction to a racer and her contemporaries, taking a different theme each time and moving forward through history. Circuit racing and rallying are both covered.

Much more than a collection of profiles and lists of achievements, it explores ideas including sportswomen as performers in the early 20th century, women, death and risk and how the expansion of small car production in the 1960s benefitted female drivers.

Some of the best-known female competitors such as Michele Mouton (rallying) and Lella Lombardi (Formula 1) make appearances, but Speed Queens is not just concerned with big names and historic “firsts”. For every woman to be the first to do something on wheels, there were usually several others vying for that honour. In this book, they are given back their place in the story and their relationships to one another examined.

"Speed Queens is that overview of an incredible number of ladies who raced. Due to the sheer number of women Rachel Harris-Gardiner identifies by name, she doesn’t have page space to write in any detail about these truly pioneering women. So her book is really an introduction to each and hopefully intrigue readers to learn more. Do not overlook exploring Harris-Gardiner’s blog as she has posted more information on the all the ladies in her book and others too—at: speedqueens.blogspot.com.

Society of Automotive Historians' Journal

...offer[s] readers an awareness of the reality that more women have been motorsport participants than perhaps had been previously believed or perceived, especially hose intrigued by the topic.

Antique Automobile Club

As featured by

Antique Automobile Club of America

Article: A motorsport story that needed to be told


As featured in the Christmas gift guide

AUTOSPORT, December 2023

"...the book absolutely makes clear by the sheer number of ladies from all walks of life and around the globe who are identified by name with a few sentences about each that women have been motorsport participants since the beginning..."


Review as featured in

Highlight: 'A book that forces you to look at motor sport differently.'

Classic Cars

Ever since the early days of motor sports in the late 19th and early 20th century, women have always been part of the scene, including some drivers. While their male counterparts may have achieved the most fame and fortune, the contributions by women should not be overlooked. This comprehensive book by Rachel Harris-Gardiner gives these women their much deserved recognition.

Unlike many books that showcase women in traditionally male fields concentrate on those who broke barriers – the first one to do a particular feat or accomplish something great. This book does much more than that. Harris-Gardiner has done extensive research to find not only those “firsts” but also recognizes those that may not have been the first to do so but still contributed to motor sports in many ways. The reader will also learn a great deal about different types of motor sports in both Europe and the United States. These go well beyond NASCAR and F1 racing, although they are included. Motorcycles, early motor vehicles and how smaller car designs helped more women become drivers are also discussed in the book.

While the book does have a good organization and is easy to follow in a chronological sense, I had to read this carefully as there are so many names to follow when Harris-Gardiner discusses their contributions. This is especially true in the early chapters when discussing the French and English women who were the early pioneers of female racing. While this is a good thing because so many women and their accomplishments are recognized, it will not be a quick and easy read.

It doesn’t matter what form of motorsports a reader enjoys – this is a book in which any fan of any type of racing should pick up and admire the courage, skill and hard work of the women portrayed in this comprehensive look at their roles in motorsports.

NetGalley, Lance Smith

Article: Racing to find the women putting their foot down in motorsports

The Sunday Post (Dundee)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow amazing book
I never knew there was so many women involved in motorsports and makes me proud to be female.
I'm a huge F1 fan and reading this was eye opener and I have now ordered copy for couple of friends.
Definitely worth reading.

NetGalley, Karen Bull

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am SO grateful to have received a copy of Speed Queens to review. As an avid F1 fan, I am constantly looking for more representation in motorsport. This was an enlightening read; one filled with history, so many great stories and an epic tale of women who rised above stereotypes to do more and be more in the sport. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and think it would make a fantastic coffee table book and gift for friends and family!

NetGalley, Megan Botha

This was a very informative book on the First Ladies of motor sports. I am an avid NASCAR fan. I had no idea that the history of women racers went back to the 1800’s. It’s a must for any motor sport fan!

NetGalley, Nancy MacIntosh

About Rachel Harris-Gardiner

Rachel Harris-Gardiner has been researching and writing about women in motorsport since she was a student in 2001, when she first decided to look up a mysterious female Formula 1 driver called “Davinia Someone” mentioned by her father. The first version of her Speedqueens blog was published in 2004.
In 2017, she began writing professionally, having decided against an academic career. A chance meeting at a networking event led to her being accepted into the Autosport Academy training programme, despite being 37 at the time.
She regularly writes for Autosport and Motorsport News, covering national racing in the UK, and has a special interest in historic Formula Ford racing.
Speed Queens is her first book.

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