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Mildred Ward Hickey

1893 - 1945
Gasoline Sorority
Sisterhood of Motorboat Racers

The 1929 Outboard Racing season of the New England Outboard Motor Boat Association opened on Lake Quinsigamond with a determined attack on all existing speed records.  The quiet waters of this pretty little lake were ripped and slashed when the many visiting outboard boats tore up and down during the events of the day.  The course as arranged was a two and one half mile circuit with straight sides separated by a distance of 300 feet. 

While this made the turns at both ends rather sharp and made it necessary for drivers to exercise a little more caution, there were few mishaps.  The program of the regatta was divided into two days of racing.  The first day consisted of mile time trials over a measured statute mile. Drivers in all classes and divisions were given an opportunity to try their speed under the most favorable conditions. The water of the lake was as smooth as glass, with hardly a ripple disturbing the surface. Under these conditions, the best in the boats was readily brought out and many fast runs were made.

The second day was reserved for races of all classes of engines.  The Class B, Division One event brought out a large field of racers.  Fourteen boats took part in this race, but it was two women that showed the men how to handle their boats.  Betty Wallace, driving a Baby Whale boat was successful in placing first.  Second was taken by Kenneth Jarett driving a Porteus boat. Third was captured by Mildred Hickey of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts driving a Baby Whale boat. [1]

Albany To New York Long Distance Outboard Contest Attracts Almost 100 Drivers
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The record for this 132 mile, long distance outboard race from Albany to New York now stands at three hours and 10 minutes, or an average of 41.76 mph for the full length. Wade Woolworth of Northwestern University succeeded in crossing the finish line just one minute ahead of second place boat racer Marshall Eldredge.

Driver Mildred Hickey, June 1931

As part of this race, a group of Class A runabouts took part.  Fourteen small runabouts started the race one hour after the larger outboards. This had been done to give the outboards the right of way down the river and not have them upsetting any of the smaller roundabouts with their heavy wash.

Despite the fog, the time made by the runabouts was faster than in the previous year. Mildred Hickey proved to be the first of the runabout drivers to cross the finish line, which she did at four hours and 14 minutes, or a speed of 31.1 mph. [2]

Gasoline Sorority

The motorboat fraternity has certainly found itself affiliated with a new order, the Gasoline Sorority, a sisterhood of amazing numbers, skill, courage, and charm.

If you doubt that women are taking an important part in motorboat activities, take a look around at any important motorboat regatta. In the crowds, on the yacht club lines, and other vantage points for witnessing the races, you will see as many men as women. On practically every cruiser or runabout in the spectator fleet, gathered around the course, you will see the same state of affairs.

It is out on the racecourse itself, however, that you will notice the most spectacular evidence of their entrance into this fast-growing sport. Motorboat racing is not for the meek, whether you do it in a runabout, a cruiser, a 2000 horsepower hydroplane, or a leaping, slewing outboard. It is a rough business and it calls for cool, calm courage, a lot of downright skill and a high degree of mechanical knowledge. It requires a hard, healthy body and a disregard of the bruising abuse that comes to all drivers of all types of racing boats when the water is even moderately rough.

Even more surprising are the great number of women that are driving the most arduous types of boats, the outboards and the 151s.  In fact, so many of them are of championship caliber, they have time and again beaten the best men pilots in the classes in which they compete.

This year the women have come out in force, have won races in galore in all parts of the country and have gained the utmost respect from their competitors and everybody else connected with this hectic sport – from the time Mildred Hickey of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts won the long race from Albany in the runabout class with a little 40 horsepower Dodge to the national outboard championship at Oakland, California in which Hilda Mueller walked off with the national championship for the second successive year. [3]


(1) Charles F. Chapman (editor), MotorBoating (International Magazine Company, New York, USA) June 1929

(2) MotorBoating (International Magazine Company, New York, USA) June 1931

(3) George W. Sutton, Jr., MotorBoating (International Magazine Company, New York, USA) February 1932

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