While researching an article for my other other blog Digging the Dust on dangerous hair accessories for automobiling females, I came across this Wikipedia entry for Dorothy Levitt, described as the “fastest woman on earth”.
And here is yet another ground-breaking woman of whom I knew nothing previously and despite quite a few links on that Wikipedia page it seems she has not yet warranted a full biography.
A couple of years ago, the documentary Penelope Keith and the Fast Lady was made by BBC4 but it doesn’t seem to have had world-wide distribution as I certainly would have watched if I had ever known about it.
Dorothy seems to have made her name mostly with automobiles, but hidden away among reports about her is the fact that she set the world’s first water speed record. Various American newspapers reported on her enthusiastically, as in this article from the Los Angeles Herald of January 6 1907 in which she lays down the gauntlet to American women to challenge her. (To read the full enlarged text, follow this Chronicling America link.)
And this other one from The Minneapolis Journal of 25 November, 1906, that features her water speed record as well. (Again, read the enlarged text in full at Chronicling America.)
Also note the bizarre torpedo-like invention down in the right hand corner to make women swim faster!
Rather than repeat what many other bloggers have already written about Dorothy Levitt, here are several links that will tell you more:
Rootschat (her genealogy)
A reprint of Dorothy’s book The Woman and the Car