A Woman to Know: Mildred Bruce

I've no co-driver. I'm going alone. — Mildred

(image via ESPN)

Mildred was fast -- damn fast.

At age 15, she became the first British woman arrest for speeding -- on her brother's (stolen) motorcycle. From there, she graduated from motorcycles to speedboats, from speedboats to Bentley racecars, from Bentley racecars to a biplane named "Bluebird." Her discipline and determination were legendary. During her 1700-mile journey in the 1926 Monte Carlo Rally (she'd win it, of course), she didn't sleep for 72 hours, to save time in her race. She claimed a steady drip of Ovaltine and a biting desire to win kept her focus sharp.

In 1931, at age 36, she broke another record, becoming the first woman to fly around the world solo, from London to New York in less than six months. Her trip was plagued with crashes and delays and disease stops, but as Mildred told friends, she was grateful for the extra time outside the plane "to write or cut my hair." After her record-setting feat, she was welcomed to American air show troupes, where she continued performing as an aviatrix in the flying circus.

At age 81, just 13 years before her death in 1990 and a handful of years after her racing retirement, she took a refresher course in flying. She wanted to savor one last trip in the air -- with a barrel roll, too, of course.

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