The Fastest Woman on Wheels: The Life of Paula Murphy
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Respected motorsports journalist, Erik Arneson, had believed he was finished with writing books on the subject. That changed, however, after a conversation with Dan Murphy, who hoped to solidify his mother, Paula Murphy’s, position as one of the unforgettable pioneers in the world of motorsports.
Paula Murphy was indeed a trailblazer, paving the way for women in the racing industry half a century ago. Despite facing discrimination and harsh treatment purely because of her gender, she consistently broke speed records in a field dominated by men. Her story is undeniably worth telling.
In Arneson’s book, The Fastest Woman on Wheels: The Life of Paula Murphy, he not only narrates the challenges that Murphy faced but also lauds the indelible impact she had on the racing world.
Arneson introduces the story by revisiting a day in November 1964 when Paula set a record by being the first woman to pilot a jet car to a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, despite less than favorable weather conditions.
Arneson then guides the reader back to Paula’s childhood, showcasing the seeds of her future in racing. He recounts her victory at the age of twelve in the 1940 Silver Skates Ice Carnival speedskating event in downtown Cleveland.
Arneson delves into Paula’s professional racing journey, exploring how her association with sponsor STP and Andy Granatelli played a significant role in shaping her career.
Aside from her historic speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Murphy accumulated an impressive list of racing achievements. She was the first woman to circle the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the first woman licensed to compete in the NHRA’s Funny Car division. Her racing career also spanned events such as the Baja 1000, Mobil Economy Runs, Monaco, Union/Pure Oil Performance, and many more. She set a record by driving from California to New York and even embarked on a global journey in celebration of America’s Bicentennial.
The single mother from Ohio tackled every challenge with an unwavering “OK, what’s next?” attitude. Arneson highlights that speed was ever-present in Murphy’s life. Through meticulous research, he recounts some of Paula Murphy’s most extraordinary accomplishments, ultimately earning her the apt nickname, The Fastest Woman On Wheels.