I'm pleased to hear that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has added Dorothy Levitt to its latest edition today. (What took so long?)
Dorothy Levitt was the first woman to compete in a motor race Britain (1903), although there were others racing in Europe, including the amazing Camille du Gast.
Dorothy wanted to encourage more women to try the thrills of being a 'motoriste'. So, in 1909, she wrote a handbook for them entitled The Woman and the Car. In another first, she had photographs taken to illustrate the book, of herself driving and maintaining the car.
She writes enthusiastically about other well-known women in the Ladies Automobile Club which had close to 400 members, observing:"there is no other country in the world in which women may be seen at the helm of a motorcar so frequently as in England. Whatever the cause – whether it be due to a greater sense of security from annoyance on public roads, or simply to superiority of pluck, the fact remains that women in England excel their sisters in other countries as greatly in motoring as in horsemanship."
The handbook includes practical tips on maintaining your car, likely costs, how to dress and motoring manners, for example: when to use the siren, and should you tip a friend's garage steward more than you would the groom when you visit?
There's no question Dorothy was a character. she raced with a snappy pomeranian pooch sitting next to her, even though he had a tendency to bite the marshalls. She was the first driver to think of using a mirror to look behind her, whipping out a hand mirror - and she carried a gun. She deserves to be remembered, as do so many rarely mentioned female pioneers in the worlds of motoring, racing and aviation.