Many thanks so far. I hope this post is appropriate, but if too long I will remove it. It does not answer my original question but members may find it an interesting read. It is a full page article/profile from the Penny Illustrated Paper of November 1906, worthy of a 2006 PR piece. I suspect it shows that she shared a bottle of something with the journalist.
The Sensational Adventures of Miss Dorothy Levitt, - Champion Lady Motorist of the World
Miss Dorothy Levitt's Adventurous career.
Is there any woman in the United States who thinks she can equal or better the record of nearly 100 miles an hour in an automobile. She will now have a chance to win the title of World's Champion Woman Automobilist. Miss Dorothy Levitt, of London, at present claims the title and has many prizes won in races both in cars on land and in motor-boats on sea. Only the other day she eclipsed all women's records at Blackpool by twice doing the flying kilometre in exactly the same time - 24.6 seconds, which nearly approached 100 miles an hour.
"I want to arrange a match for the World's Championship with an American Woman automobilist." she said to me. "I am willing to race either here or at Ormond Beach, Florida, or elsewhere in the United States. The conditions need to be of the simplest. I am keen to race an American woman for the World's Championship. I must look to America for a race. - There is no one left in Europe with whom to compete. I have beaten them all, and badly too. Madame du Gast, the French motorist, does not drive a high power machine. There are only two real racing cars over here - the 200 h.p. Darracq, now the property of the Hon. David Guiness, and my 90 h.p. Napier, which has just been sold to a South American millionaire. It goes to Brazil in a few days. But if my challenge is accepted in America, I will go to work and build a new racer. It will be a 90 h.p., for I think I handle that the best."
To read Miss Dorothy Levitt's own words, or to look at her records, one would at once picture an Amazon. But she is far from that. She is a very womanly woman - fairly tall, with a willowy figure, large and velvety brown eyes, bronze coloured hair, well shaped features with a large but laughter lit mouth. Her muscles are like steel. She is the picture of health, and a perfect example of the well-groomed, fashionable Englishwoman.
Miss Levitt's is a romantic history. In five years she has reached the top of the tree in her unique profession. While this girl of twenty-five is the most daring of women automobile drivers in the world, outside of her car she would scream at a mouse, and is nervous and afraid when trundling around town in a hansom cab.
The Levitts are an old London family. Miss Dorothy was born here. Her father, who was in the Government service, has retired on a pension to his country house. When Dorothy was twenty, she was introduced to S.F.Edge, the motor-boat racer and automobilist. Mr Edge was told the little tale of woe and suggested she carve out a career for herself. So he arranged her apprenticeship to a firm of French automobile makers on the outskirts of Paris, and there Dorothy Levitt went for six months. While her parents searched everywhere for her, although they knew she was well and happy, Dorothy was learning the automobile business. She began at the bottom as a wiper, or cleaner, and finished as a machinist and chauffeur. She took an interest in her workand daily wore her blue overalls and worked alongside the others at the factory.
Then she returned to London and immediately began learning the ins and outs of London traffic. Mr Edge was astonished at her quickly gathered proficiency and at her nerve. She was soon earning a good salary teaching women how to handle a car. She taught a host of people from the Queen and Royal Princesses down through Duchesses and Countesses to plain everyday American visitors.
There happened about this time to be a reliability run from Edinburgh to London. Miss Levitt was one of the 350 competitors. She reached London thirteenth and won her first prize and medal thereby. She did all her own repairs onthe road, and was not a bit dismayed at the ill omened number.
"Thirteen is my lucky number and Friday my lucky day" she told me.
Once in the public eye Miss Levitt went up with a rush. She was a competitor in the motor-boat race at Cowes, Isle of Wight, the first contest of the kind held anywhere. Miss Levitt won this big and exciting race, and was afterwards taken on board the Royal yacht and presented to King Edward, who congratulated her on her pluck and skill. A few days later she raced again at Trouville against all the world's cracks, and she won the five mile world's championship of the sea and the $1,750.
She tried racing on land after that, and in cars of increasing power won trophy after trophy. Her biggest race was last July in the Brighton Handicap. She drove an 80 h.p. Napier. Madame du Gast's car was 35 h.p., and the French champion had a very big allowance, but Miss Levitt wore down all her opponents, the cracks of Europe, and by her superb nerve won by a block.
She has cups and shields and medals galore, and has received dozens of prize checks hill-climbing, endurance and reliability trials. Only the other day she won a small car trial at Hereford with her pet machine, a baby 8 h.p., which she built herself in Paris.
This is one of the daintiest cars in London. It has most graceful curves and lines, such as are seldom seen on automobiles. The colouring is white picked out with green.
Miss Levitt has had plenty of narrow escapes. At Blackpool, for instance, during the speed trials, two dogs, three children, and finally three more dogs came out onto the track and tried to cross over. Miss Levitt spoiled her trials but managed with splendid work to save the children. History does not tell what happened to the dogs.
Again, at Worcester, hillclimbing, her car was the only one without non-skid wheels. Going round one sharp bend her car began skidding. Miss Levitt, though the crowd frantically shrieked to her jump, held tight to her steering wheel and stayed in her seat. Yet her outside wheels went half an inch from the edge of the road, and after the edge of that road there was nothing but a sheer precipice 400 feet deep.
At the last Blackpool speed trials, while going at 96 miles an hour - it was a standing start - one of the straps on the bonnet broke and the wind got under the big steel envelope and blew it back. Miss Levitt put the brakes on - slowly at first, and then jammed them down hard.
The car was stopped just as the last screw gave way and the bonnet flew back. If it had gone back while at the furious pace of 96 miles an hour, the heavy steel covering would either have crushed to death the woman driver or else cut her head off.
I asked Miss Levitt what her sensations were in going at this awful pace.
"Wonderful," she answered. - "One can hardly describe one's sensations. There is a feeling of flying through space. I never think of the danger. That sort of thing won't do. But I know it is omnipresent. The slightest touch of the hand and the car swerves, and swerves are usually fatal. But I am a good gambler, and always willing to take the chance. In going that pace, the hardest thing is to keep in the car. Half the time the wheels don't touch the ground at all, and when they do touch you must be prepared to take the shock and lurch, else out you will go. It is far harder work to sit in the car than to ride a galloping horse over the jumps in a steeplechase. When I made the records I was in the car alone. I prefer it."
Miss Levitt told me that she made up for the fearful excitement of automobile racing by quietly going fishing. She is a splendid rod, and trout fishing is her favourite sport.
As it takes wonderful nerve to play poker, her favourite game, well. Miss Levitt has proved a star at the American national card gamble. She is also an expert at roulette, and has a most wonderful secret system with which she is going this winter to attempt to break the bank at Monte Carlo. She will take with her Dodo, a tiny black Pomeranian dog. Dodo was the property of Mlle. Marie Cornelle, and was given to Miss Levitt in Paris three or four years ago. There is a very strict law against admitting dogs into England. So Dodo was smuggled. He was first drugged, and then packed in some some waste in the repair box of an automobile that came through without much examination. Dodo went to sleep in Paris and safely came out of his trance in London. He goes everywherewith his mistress, and Miss Levitt declares he has travelled more miles in an automobile than any other dog in the world.
Miss Levitt has travelled much in the last few years - in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Morocco. Now she wants to visit the United States.
n.b. The Illustrated article is available from the British Library http://newspapers11.bl.uk/blcs/
- search for Dorothy Levitt and select News - Penny Illustrated Paper of November 1906,
Edited by Peter Knight, 03 March 2012 - 11:42.