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The beautiful lost sculptures of Augusta Savage
02.28.2017
03:30 pm
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The African-American artist Augusta Savage was born in Florida during a leap year on February 29, 1892. Her earliest memories were of the heavy rains and making ducks and chickens from the wet red clay out in the yard. She decided early to become an artist but her father, a strict Methodist minister, tried to whip this dream out of her. He sometimes beat her four or five times a week. It didn’t work. Augusta was determined to go her own way.

The options for most poor girls at the turn of the last century was go to work, get married and have kids. Augusta married at the age of fifteen in 1907 and gave birth to her only child, Irene, a year later. Not long after this, her husband died. Augusta then got hitched to a carpenter by the name of James Savage. The marriage lasted until the early 1920s when the couple divorced. Augusta liked the surname so decided to keep it.

With marriage and a baby to look after, Savage didn’t manage take up sculpting again until 1919 when a local sculptor gave her some clay. She knew she had talent but how much she wasn’t sure. Her talent was decidedly confirmed when she entered a couple of her latest sculptures into a local fair. She won top prize. This was just enough encouragement for Augusta. She gave her daughter over to the temporary care of her parents and headed off to New York to enrol as a student at the Cooper Union School of Art.

To her tutors it became quickly apparent that Savage was an exceptional talent. She passed her four year arts course with flying colors in a speedy three. But not everyone was impressed with this bright and talented young woman. 

In 1923,  Savage won a place among one hundred other American students to travel to Fontainbleau, France for a summer arts program. Arriving at the venue just outside Paris, Augusta was barred from entry and ejected off the course by the French organizers on grounds of her color. But other people’s racism and stupidity was never going to stop Augusta.

She returned to New York where she soon set-up a studio in Harlem. Augusta established herself as a portrait sculptor seeking commission from well-to-do African-American families to produce busts. It was during this time that Augusta produced one of her most famous and celebrated works Gamin.

In 1929, Augusta Savage won another fellowship to study in Paris. This time there was no institutionalized racism standing in her way and all went well. It led to a second fellowship the following year. But upon her return to America in the early thirties, she found the country devastated by the Wall St. Crash and the ensuing Great Depression. No one wanted portrait busts or civic sculptures. Undeterred, Augusta opened the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in Harlem 1932, where she taught art to young kids in the neighborhood.

Success followed in 1934, when Augusta became the first African-American to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Three years later, she became the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center—which played a crucial role in the lives of many black artists.

Yet, Augusta Savage’s life always seemed shadowed by obstacle and opposition. The height of her greatest sculptural achievement came when she was asked to create a large sculpture for New York’s World Fair in 1939. Augusta produced a work called The Harp. It took her two years to develop and create. This massive piece of sculpture was inspired by the poem Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson. The poem was written in response to “a group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, [who] arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900.”

Lift every voice and sing  
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. 
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Augusta’s statue featured twelve black singers rising up from the palm of God forming the shape of a harp. It was one of the main attractions at the fair. But when the show closed, no one was interested in helping Augusta keep the work or having it cast in bronze. The sculpture was smashed to pieces. It was a symbolic finale to Augusta’s career. On returning to Harlem, she found her position at the Community Arts Center had been taken by someone else. Things began to fall apart—more so after America entered the Second World War in 1941. Thereafter, nearly everything Augusta attempted failed. She moved to Saugerties, in the Catskill Mountains and started producing smaller works. But something had been lost. Something that had once been so powerful and resilient had been destroyed.

Augusta Savage produced less and less work. Most of her original work had been lost or destroyed. By the time of her death in 1962, Augusta Savage was tragically relatively forgotten

I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.

I don’t know if Augusta celebrated her birthday every four years or shifted around between the 28th Feb. and first of March, but as this is the last day in February maybe we should celebrate Augusta Savage who was truly one of the most significant American sculptors of the twentieth century.
 
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Augusta in her studio.
 
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‘The Harp’ (1939).
 
Read more about Augusta Savage, and see more of her work, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.28.2017
03:30 pm
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The ‘private’ photographs of Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg: Questioning gender roles circa 1900
02.27.2017
11:41 am
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Marie Høeg (1866-1949) had short cropped hair. Bolette Berg (1872-1944) kept hers long. Marie was short. Bolette was taller. They were known to the people of Horten, a busy naval port in Norway, as the two ladies who ran the photography studio called Berg & Høeg. They made their living taking portrait photographs, landscape pictures and the occasional picture of ships. In the late 1800s and early 1900s photography was the latest craze where those who could afford it had their picture taken. There were many such photographic studios in Horten. Berg & Høeg may have been long forgotten had it not been for the discovery some thirty years ago of some 440 of their glass negatives in an old disused barn in Oslo.

Among these glass plates was a box marked “Private.” Inside this box was a set of images featuring Høeg and Berg playing around with traditional gender roles. Høeg dressed as a man with a waxed mustaches, or as a boy with white shirt, cap and cigarette, or in fur pretending to be an Arctic explorer like Roald Amundsen, who led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1903–06.

Berg & Høeg posed with their women friends indulging in some of the worst kind of vices usually attributed to men—smoking, drinking and playing cards. Høeg also posed as husband to an unknown male friend as wife and in a rowing boat as a bowler-hat-wearing suitor to Berg’s elegant object of desire.

The finished photographs would have been shared among their small coterie of friends in Horten. Their friends no doubt laughed at these daring, subversive images which cocked a snook at the strict conventions surrounding sexuality, gender and identity at a time when women were called the “weaker sex,” and forbidden the vote.

Marie Høeg was the main subject of these “private” photographs. During her life she was best known as a pioneering activist for women’s rights. She founded the Horten Branch of the National Association for Women’s Suffrage, the Horten Women’s Council and the Horten Tuberculosis Association. Bolette Berg worked more behind the camera. The two women are believed to have met while studying photography in Finland during the early 1890s. They moved to Horten where they set up a studio together in 1895.

In 1903, the two women left Horten and set up a new studio in Oslo (then called Kristiania) where they had a career producing scenic and portrait postcards. They bought a farm and at some point stored their glass negatives in the barn where these images remained long after both Berg’s and Høeg’s deaths until their discovery in the 1980s.
 
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More of Høeg and Berg’s cross-dressing pictures, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.27.2017
11:41 am
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Complete your LEGO Women’s March with pink Pussyhats!
02.09.2017
07:53 am
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Okay, these are downright sweet. I love them. Sadly, the Pussyhats for your LEGO figurines are not available to purchase but can be made with a 3D printer. That’s how these LEGO-like hats and signs were created. 

From Thingiverse:

This LEGO® minifig compatible Pussyhat celebrates the millions that joined the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and around the world on January 21, 2017. “The Pussyhat Project is a movement, not just a moment.” Print a Pussyhat and create a Women’s March minifig to display as a reminder of the fight for women’s rights and equality.

There are 2 version of the Pussyhat model, v1 requires supports but is a better fit while v2 requires no supports. Some trial and error and/or post-processing may be needed to get a perfect fit with your printer. Scale the model up or down slightly as needed. Designed in Tinkercad and printed on an Ultimaker 2.

According to Thingiverse, if you do decide to tackle this project on your own with your 3D printer and have any questions, you can contact the designer on Facebook or Twitter.


 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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02.09.2017
07:53 am
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When comic book ‘heroes’ were sexist women beaters
02.07.2017
09:58 am
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We don’t have to time travel like Dr. Sam Beckett to find out just how terrible things were in the past. No, we’ve got the Internet to do that for us.

If you’ve ever wondered how easy sexism, misogyny and violence is passed on generation to generation then look no further than this brutal gallery featuring some of the world’s favorite cartoon characters and comic book superheroes spanking women. Their actions are supposed to be funny. Their actions are supposed to be normal. It’s even encouraged by their fellow comic strip characters and worse accepted as a suitable punishment by the women being hit.

Dr. Beckett would have had a hell of a time trying to sort all this sexist crap out and “change history for the better.”

Between the 1940s and 1970s, spanking in comic books appeared to be mandatory. Virtually every comic book hero from Batman, Daredevil, the Phantom, Li’l Abner and Superman indulged in this kind of abuse. Let’s be clear Lois Lane would have dumped Clark Kent for his psychotic penchant for domestic abuse. Bruce Wayne would have been put on at least on community service for his cosplay sadism. Then there were all the dimwits in the newspaper “Funnies” who only reinforced the worst kind of behavior.

The spanking may have stopped but the sexism is still very much a part of today’s comic books as can be seen by the cover of Spider-Woman #1 or through the Hawkeye Intiative. No doubt Dr. Beckett is out there right now trying to fix that too….
 
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More sexist superhero violence, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.07.2017
09:58 am
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Beautiful portraits of the Iconic Stars, Bad Girls and Pioneering Women of Hollywood’s Golden Age
02.03.2017
12:48 pm
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Artist Charles Gates Sheldon (1889-1960) is best known for his cover art for publications like Photoplay, the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Magazine. His work also included advertising and book illustration. But I like to think of Charles Sheldon Gates as the man who reinvented religious iconography for the twentieth century by replacing the portraits of angels and saints with pastel portraits of the silent movie stars and Hollywood legends of the 1920s and 1930s.

Sheldon’s portraits of actresses deserve to be glorified. These women were all tough dames. Most came from blue collar backgrounds and made their own way to the top in Hollywood at a time of autocratic studio bosses and sex pest producers. Some like Clara Bow lived a life of excess and ultimately paid for it. Others like Katharine Hepburn were strong-willed and fiercely independent who relished their freedom and privacy. Many died far too young. But all had a talent to entertain, inspire and bring a little hope—the kind of thing people get from religious paintings.
 
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The original ‘It Girl’ Clara Bow.
 
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Clara Bow.
 
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The original ‘sex symbol’ and ‘Blonde Bombshell’ Jean Harlow.
 
More icons of the silver screen, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.03.2017
12:48 pm
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Girls on Motorcycles: Retro photos of pioneering biker chicks
01.31.2017
11:03 am
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It really all began with the bicycle in the 1890s when wheelmen clubs across America started promoting the bicycle as a new sport—an enjoyable way to travel, exercise and spend free time. Similar clubs opened up in various parts of Europe, but while these were mainly the preserve of the wealthy and leisured class, Americans had the greater opportunity through the cheap mass production of bicycles, the space, the inclination, the time and the desire to get about on two wheels.

There were literally millions of bikes in the US by end of the 19th century. Very soon women were taking to the road and cycling their way across town and city and into history. The women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony said something to the effect that the bicycle did “more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” Women she said were “riding into suffrage on the bicycle.”

Not everyone agreed or was even happy with this. One crotchety dinosaur at the Washington Sunday Herald newspaper in 1891 described “a woman on a bicycle” as “the most vicious thing” he had ever seen. But like the dinosaur such attitudes soon extinct as once women were off on their bikes, there was no just stopping ‘em.

In parallel with the rise of the bicycle was the development of the motorcycle which was originally just a bike with an engine—though some had four wheels for balance instead of two. By 1903, Harley-Davidson sold their first motorcycles. The demand was soon fierce and companies popped up across the States producing motorbikes with thrilling names like the Marvel, the Indian and the Excelsior.

When the Indian motorcycle company added front and back shock absorbers to their motorbikes in 1915, the once far-fetched notion of long distance travel on two wheels quickly became a reality. That same year mother and daughter Avis and Effie Hotchkiss completed a 9,000 mile roundtrip by motorcycle from New York to San Francisco. In 1916, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren traveled across country on their motorbikes.

Now let’s just stop and think about these two long grueling incredible journeys. At the time there were no proper freeways. Most roads were dirt and dust. And women traveling on their own a century ago would have had to fend off unwanted advances and the unwarranted censure of every hick town they visited. Also, these women had to know how to fix their bikes when things went wrong.

By the 1920s a new generation of pioneering women bikers were taking to the road and traveling across continent. One such woman was Vivian Bales who became the first female biker to appear on the cover of Harley-Davidson’s Enthusiast magazine. Vivian was a little over five feet tall and and lacked the physical strength to kickstart her own bike but she still made a 5,000 mile trip across country on her flathead engine D-series Harley-Davidson in 1929.

Vivian wasn’t the only pioneering woman who rode into history on her motorbike during the 1920s. These photos of women bikers in America and Europe—mainly from around this decade—document the two-wheeled revolution that brought a new kind of freedom for women.
 
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Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, 1915.
 
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The Van Buren sisters.
 
More pioneering biker chicks, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.31.2017
11:03 am
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Some of the best (trust me, they are tremendous) protest signs from the Women’s March
01.23.2017
10:23 am
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One of the many signs I saw and photographed during the Seattle ‘Women’s March,’ January 21st, 2017.
 
On Saturday I spent the better part of the day walking the streets of Seattle with a few of my “delicate snowflake” friends and approximately 175,000 other like-minded women, men and children during our Women’s March. The event, which was the largest protest in the history of the city, was by far one of the most powerful and empowering things I have ever personally experienced in my life. And while it’s not an alternate fact that our work is just beginning, judging from the numbers of people who collectively participated in the massive march in Washington DC, and the local support marches around the globe, there is still room for hope.

Many of the images of the signs in this post, were taken by yours truly and by friends of mine, old and new, who I walked with in Seattle. Others were culled from the Facebook page Pantsuit Nation and I’ve done the best I can to attach locations to each photo. While I have plenty to say on the subject when it comes to why millions of people took to the streets all over the country and the world, I’d much prefer to let the images of the protest signs that marchers carried with them on Saturday do the talking. So to the new administration and our new Commander-in-Grief, get ready because you haven’t seen anything yet. Viva la VULVA!
 

Seattle Women’s March, January 21st, 2017. Photo taken by a member of my marching group.
 

Seattle. Photo by Cherrybomb.
 

A 91-year-old retired doctor protesting in Los Angeles.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.23.2017
10:23 am
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Lucifer, Satan & other Devils: The Occult art of Rosaleen Norton, the Witch of Kings Cross
01.19.2017
02:32 pm
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‘Lucifer and the Goat Mendes.’
 
The most notorious witch in Australian history was an artist named Rosaleen Norton (1917-79) who scandalized her ultra-conservative homeland with her outrageous bohemian lifestyle and strange occult beliefs during the 1950s.

The press dubbed Norton the “Witch of Kings Cross”—a low-rent artists’ quarter and red light district in Sydney, New South Wales. They claimed she was an evil Satanist who revelled in perverted Black Masses and unnatural orgies with her sex-mad coven. It was true Rosaleen (Roie to her friends) liked sex with both men and women. She enjoyed sex and saw no shame in admitting that she did. She also practised sex magick and made no secret of its powers. But Rosaleen was no Satanist. She was a pagan who followed her own particular belief in Pan.

From earliest childhood Rosaleen felt she was different—and felt compelled to prove this indeed was the case. As her friend and biographer Nevill Drury later recalled:

[Rosaleen] revelled in being the odd one out, purporting to despise her schoolmates. She argued continuously with her mother. She ‘hated’ authority figures like headmistresses, policemen, politicians and priests. She had no time at all for organised religion, and the gods she embraced - a cluster of ancient gods centred around Pan - were, of course, pagan to the hilt. She regarded Pan as the God of Infinite Being.

~snip!~

Pan was undoubtedly a rather unusual god for a young woman to be worshipping in Australia. But then Roie was different. And she was different in an age when it was quite a lot harder to be different than it is now. She was bohemian, bisexual, outspoken, rebellious and thoroughly independent in an era when most young ladies growing up on Sydney’s North Shore would be thinking simply of staying home, happily married with a husband and children. Roie was not afraid to say what she thought, draw her pagan images on city pavements, or flaunt her occult beliefs in the pages of the tabloids. To most people who read about her in newspapers and magazines she was simply outrageous.

Rosaleen was certainly outrageous. She was expelled from school for drawing pictures of vampires, pentagrams and demons during art class, which were claimed to have terrified her fellow classmates. In 1952, when a collection of her work was first published in book form as The Art of Rosaleen Norton three of the images contained therein—“Black Magic” (which depicted Rosaleen herself having sex with a panther), “Rites of Baron Samedi” and “Fohat” (which depicted a demon with a large muscled snake for a penis)—caused such offence that the publisher was prosecuted for obscenity and the pictures removed from all future printings. In America the book was deemed so pornographic that all imported copies were destroyed by custom officials.

Worse was to follow in 1955 when a woman named Anna Karina Hoffman was arrested for vagrancy. When questioned by police, Hoffman claimed she had participated in horrific Satanic black masses organized by Rosaleen. It was this accusation that led the tabloid press to dub Rosaleen the “Witch of Kings Cross” and promulgate the series of trumped-up news stories about her lurid (s)excesses.

However, the following year, one of her lovers, the highly respected composer Sir Eugene Goossens was arrested by Australian customs for attempting to bring some 800 pornographic images into the country—many of them marked “SM” for “sex magick.” The ensuing investigation by officials was heavily detailed by the press. It destroyed Goossens’ career and further denigrated Rosaleen’s character.

Still Rosaleen continued on her own way—painting pictures, following her own religious beliefs, enjoying a varied and active sex life and even dropping LSD to “induce visionary states” to enhance her awareness as an artist.

It was this visionary aspect which was at the heart of Rosaleen’s art:

From an early age she had a remarkable capacity to explore the visionary depths of her subconscious mind, and the archetypal beings she encountered on those occasions became the focus of her art. It was only later that Roie was labelled a witch, was described as such in the popular press, and began to develop the persona which accompanied that description. As this process gathered momentum, Roie in turn became intent on trying to demonstrate that she had been born a witch. After all, she had somewhat pointed ears, small blue markings on her left knee, and also a long strand of flesh which hung from underneath her armpit to her waist - a variant on the extra nipple sometimes ascribed to witches in the Middle Ages.

~snip!~

Roie’s personal beliefs were a strange mix of magic, mythology and fantasy, but derived substantially from mystical experiences which, for her, were completely real. She was no theoretician. Part of her disdain for the public at large, I believe, derived from the fact that she felt she had access to a wondrous visionary universe - while most people lived lives that were narrow, bigoted, and based on fear. Roie was very much an adventurer - a free spirit - and she liked to fly through the worlds opened to her by her imagination.

Roie’s art reflected this. It was her main passion, her main reason for living. She had no career ambitions other than to reflect on the forces within her essential being, and to manifest these psychic and magical energies in the only way she knew how. As Roie’s older sister Cecily later told me, art was the very centre of her life, and Roie took great pride in the brief recognition she received when the English critic and landscape artist John Sackville-West described her in 1970 as one of Australia’s finest artists, alongside Norman Lindsay. It was praise from an unexpected quarter, and it heartened Roie considerably because she felt that at last someone had understood her art and had responded to it positively. All too often her critics had responded only to her outer veneer - the bizarre and often distorted persona created by the media - and this was not the ‘real’ Roie at all.

Today no one would I doubt if anyone would bat an eyelid at Rosaleen’s lifestyle or beliefs—which shows how much our world has evolved. This year marks the centenary of her birth which should bring a new assessment of her life and work and introduce a new generation to the artist behind Australia’s most notorious witch.
 
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‘Black Magic.’
 
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‘Self Portrait with Occult Animals and Symbols.’
 
More of Rosaleen’s art, after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.19.2017
02:32 pm
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Angry woman: Lydia Lunch’s gun is loaded
01.19.2017
02:12 pm
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During the decade of the 1980s, I saw Lydia Lunch perform maybe fifteen+ times and I caught some pretty seminal performances of hers, including the premiere of Fingered, the gleefully violent porn film she made with Richard Kern and South of Your Border, the two-person theatrical play she did with Emilio Cubeiro that ended in a blood-covered, naked Lydia trussed up on a giant “X” onstage pissing all over him!

To truly appreciate the aggressively confrontational nature of her powerful one woman shows—just her and a mic—you had to be in, or very near, the front row. As with fellow in-your-face monologists like Eric Bogosian and Brother Theodore, it was fucking scary and rather intimidating to be anywhere near the stage for one of her rants, but I always figured why not get all of the Artaudian benefits from having someone scream in your face for an hour at close range? If anyone can deliver on the cathartic promise of Theatre of Cruelty, it’s Lydia Lunch. Audiences leave her shows limp. I mean, what do you say in the cab going home about a show that unexpectedly ends in blood-stained golden showers? (Incidentally, she drank an entire six-pack during the play’s penultimate scene. What she unleashed on Cuberio the night I saw the show was not merely a trickle, I can assure you. Good times!)
 

 
Lunch’s The Gun Is Loaded video, an angry nihilistic rant about life in Reagan’s America, long out of print, is now available to watch free online via MVDVideo (who also put it out on DVD). I actually saw this show twice when she did this material at the Performance Garage space in New York (and yes, I was in the front row both times). Here’s how the filmmakers describe the project:

THE GUN IS LOADED is a 37-minute performance video featuring former punk rocker, political satirist and sexual provocateur Lydia Lunch.

This video trails Lydia in 1988 through a series of staged sets and location shots in New York City as she fires her spoken word manifesto directly into the eye of the camera, and in haunting voice-over.  Underscoring Lydia’s onslaught is cinema verité footage of bottom-rung Americana: racecar crowds, dead-end streets and meat packing plants effectively illustrate her ruthless examination of “the American dream machine turned mean.” J.G. Thirlwell’s ominous score magnifies this brutal desolation.

Identifying herself as “the average, all-American girl-next-store gone bad,” Lydia vivisects her own sustained damage as a product of this emotionally ravaging environment.

Co-director Joe Tripician wrote to me on about the piece:

This was partially shot at the Performance Garage, but without an audience. Lydia asked me and my former partner Merrill Aldighieri to record her show, but we wanted to expand the production from its theatrical base and exhibit her in an outside environment. So, this video is also a document of the ‘80s NYC street life—from the 14th Street Meat market to Wall Street. We called it a “video super-realization” of her spoken word performance.

In the video she fires her venom directly into the camera lens, and in an intimate voice-over. J. G. Thirlwell supplied the original music score - a one-of-a-kind aural onslaught.

It was released on VHS in the late 80s, but has never aired on TV. The one response we received was from PBS, who called the video in their rejection letter “exceptionally unacceptable.”

They were probably right about that…
 
Watch ‘The Gun is Loaded’ after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.19.2017
02:12 pm
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Speed Queens: The fearless female drag racers of the 60s and 70s
01.17.2017
12:40 pm
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Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney on the cover of ‘Sunday News Magazine’ in 1978.
 
Like many fields of work, the drag racing scene was and is fairly well dominated by men. During its heyday, specifically the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, the National Hot Rod Association incorporated the use of gorgeous women/models to help appeal to the fanboys. If you were into that scene, you probably spent a lot of time fantasizing about Pam Hardy aka “Jungle Pam” who accompanied driver “Jungle Jim” Liberman across the country clad in go-go boots and form-fitting, barely-there outfits that showcased her bodacious “assets” while she showboated on the track and in the pit for her adoring fans. Though Liberman would pass away unexpectedly in 1977, Hardy would continue to appear at racing events. But this post isn’t about buxom blonde race track cheerleaders. It’s about the ballsy women who drove the cars during that era—and there were actually quite a lot of “speed queens” that not only gave their male counterparts a run for their money, but also blazed a trail for other women who wanted smoke up the track.

And since I know you’re curious, here’s a shot of “Jungle Pam.” Though her attire says otherwise, it must have been cold that day.
 

 
Although there were many notable women drag racers who were active during the 60s and 70s, today I’ll be focusing your attention on three of them: Janet Guthrie, the first woman ever to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and in the Daytona 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race; the “First Lady of Drag Racing,” Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney; and Carol “Bunny” Burkett, who famously worked at the Playboy Club in Baltimore for a brief period in order to help fund her racing career.

Let’s start with my favorite of this kick-ass quad, Shirley Muldowney. Muldowney got her National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) license in 1965 and subsequently became the first woman to compete in the “supercharged gasoline dragster” category. When the NHRA did away with the category, Muldowney set her sights on the ever-popular “funny car” category. Despite their amusing sounding name, there’s nothing actually amusing about “funny cars” as they are insanely dangerous, supercharged pieces of methane-powered machinery that can kill you. But that didn’t phase Muldowney who won her first funny car race in Lebanon Valley, New York. Her success with funny cars led her to compete in the “Top Fuel” category and in August of 1975 she became the first woman to smash through the “five-second barrier” in Martin, Michigan at the Popular Hot Rodding Championships. Fast-forward to 1982 (and many other accolades and awards) when Muldowney became the first woman to receive three national championships from the NHRA making her the first female Top Fuel driver to ever receive this distinction. Make no mistake, Muldowney was a badass in every sense of the word. However, as I mentioned previously, drag racing is a risky pursuit for anyone—male or female alike.

In 1984 Muldowney nearly lost her life after one of the front tires of her nitro-powered dragster blew out while she was screaming down the track at 250 mph. The horrific crash sent Muldowney to the hospital with many injuries including two broken legs that were so messed up that there was a distinct possibility that she might never walk again, never mind get behind the wheel of a race car. But she did indeed walk again and in 1986 she returned to race in the NHRA. In 1989 she became the first woman to join an elite “Crager Four-Second Club” by reaching a mind-shattering 284 MPH in her Top Fuel car in 4.974 seconds. Muldowney would continue to race throughout the 90s until she retired in 2003. Muldowney’s remarkable life and career was the basis for the 1983 film Heart Like a Wheel starring actress Bonnie Bedelia (“Holly Gennaro McClane” of the Die Hard franchise).
 

The earliest known photo (though undated) of Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney taken at the Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio.
 
Janet Guthrie was another pioneer in women’s drag racing though she didn’t start out with that goal in mind necessarily. In 1964 at the age of 26 Guthrie was accepted into the very first “Scientist-Astronaut” program and though she made it through the first round of eliminations she didn’t make it all the way. Before she entered the wild world of professional car driving she held several fascinating jobs such as a flight instructor (Guthrie was a skilled pilot), an aerospace engineer, and she spent thirteen years building and maintaining race cars she personally owned. In 1976 Guthrie became the first female competitor to race in the NASCAR Winston Cup stock car race. One year later she competed in the Indianapolis 500 and drove in the Daytona 500. Both of these occasions marked the first time that a woman had participated in both prestigious events. A force to be reckoned with, Guthrie garnered the praise and respect of her peers. Here’s NASCAR legend William Caleb “Cale” Yarborough on Guthrie’s racing prowess back in 1977:

There is no question about her ability to race with us. More power to her. She has “made it” in what I think is the most competitive racing circuit in the world.

Thanks to her legendary (albeit short) career Guthrie’s racing suit and helmet are a part of a permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute. Her 2005 autobiography Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle was praised by The New York Times and Sports Illustrated. In 2006 Guthrie was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Lastly—but not least by a long-shot—is Carol “Bunny” Burkett. Born in the poverty-riddled hills of West Virginia she and her family were fortunate enough to move to Virginia when Burkett was young. According to Burkett, her then boyfriend got her interested in racing when she was just fifteen when he let her speed around a racetrack in his 1955 Mercury. Burkett was hooked and a few years later she purchased her first car—a 1964 Mustang. A year later she was cleaning up at the track winning race after race. In an interesting turn of events Burkett would leave the racing circuit due to financial troubles and got a job at the Playboy Club in nearby Baltimore, Maryland so she could earn the cash necessary to keep her racing career going. The cheeky stint would earn her the nickname of “Bunny” which she emblazoned on her cars.

By the time the 1980s came along Burkett was once again winning championships and in 1986 she won the very first International Hot Rod Association/Alcohol Funny Car (IHRA AFC) championship and is the only female driver to have done so, earning her the title of “First Lady of Funny Car.” Almost a decade later Bunny narrowly avoided being killed after one of her fellow competitors hit her car at more than 200 MPH. Like Cha Cha Muldowney, Bunny would soon enough return to racing for a number of years before ultimately retiring. Burkett is a breast cancer survivor and has spent the later part of her life working for charitable special-needs organizations. According to Burkett all she really wants is to be remembered as is a “good drag racer, a good driver and most of all, a good person.” And to that I say, “mission accomplished” Bunny. And then some.

I’ve included some incredible photos of all of these equally incredible, barrier-busting women below including images from both Bunny’s and Cha Cha’s horrific crashes, as well as other shots of the badass gals behind the wheel and standing by their cars instead of a man. Because horsepower = girl power.
 

Cha Cha Muldowney presiding over her then husband Jack and her dragster.
 

Another awesome shot of Muldowney on the beach with white go-go boots beside one of her cars.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.17.2017
12:40 pm
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