“The Goddess in the Car”


Dorothy Levitt started as a secretary at the Napier Car Company, but when the publicity-minded boss offered her a chance to race for him, she revealed a soul of pure fire:

  • In 1903 she became the first woman driver to win an automobile race.
  • Also in 1903 she also won Britain’s first international powerboat race, at a cool 19.53 mph.
  • In 1905 she drove from London to Liverpool and back, establishing a women’s distance record (205 miles in 11 hours).
  • In 1906 she broke the ladies’ land speed record, becoming “the fastest girl on earth” at 90.88 mph.
  • In 1909 she started flight training in France.

The “chauffeuse” also wrote a newspaper column and in 1909 published The Woman in the Car, “a guide for women motorists” with “simple and understandable instructions and hints” (including “If you are driving alone a dog is great company” and “It might be advisable to carry a small revolver.”)

Unfortunately, the Western Field reported in 1904, “She is also famous as being the first motorist to obtain substantial damages, amounting to thirty-five pounds sterling, or $175, from the owner of a horse-drawn vehicle which collided with her car.” But she made her own repairs.