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Why the AAA Banned Women from Motorsport: Joan Newton Cuneo's Wild Racing Streak

One of the first successful female racers, Joan Newton Cuneo had fallen in love with racing when her husband Andrew bought her a steam car which she traded in for a more powerful car and took to the race track.

She had competed in various races starting with the Glidden Tour and she continued to set speed records, attracting attention in the racing scene and even from media outlets.

Things were looking good. In 1908, Cuneo had completed the Glidden Tour with a perfect score, set even more speed records, and was on her way to the New Orleans Fair Grounds in early 1909 for the Mardi Gras races—intended to be a perfect way for Cuneo to grow her celebrity.
And she kicked ass. The Mardi Gras races were three jam-packed days of speed, and Cuneo was defeating a long list of popular drivers, like Ralph de Palma, Bob Burman, and George Robertson. The media went wild. A tiny woman behind the wheel of a powerful car seemed absurd—but the fact that she could absolutely demolish the top talents of the day? Joan Cuneo was a force to be reckoned with.

All was well and good except for one thing. She was banned by the AAA from participating in any sanctioned races:

That is, until the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association decided to ban women from any of their sanctioned competitions. Including Cuneo.

(Image credit: Bain News Service/Wikimedia Commons)


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