Last Page - The End Of Umbrella Girls?

Photography by Tod Rafferty Archive

We've got women cops, firepersons, astronauts and rodeo clowns, but somehow there's a disturbing shortage of talented women racers. We need a few more like the lovely Latelle, stuntress from a century ago, brought back to life here courtesy of the Tod Rafferty photo archive. Latelle looks like a daring young lady who certainly knows her way around an Emblem. At least she did a hundred years ago. Bet she's considerably less frisky now.

Despite substantial progress in the last century, women in motorcycling are still frequently relegated to little more than sexy props. Too bad. We could probably stand to see one less smokin' hot umbrella girl and one more championship-winning Angelle Sampey.

Honestly, can't we rustle up someone other than a zero-body-fat, veiny bundle of testosterone to win a MotoGP race? Jessica Alba with freshly beveled knee pucks and a heap of attitude would be a fine start. Sure, that vision doesn't completely discard the umbrella-girl hottie norm, but hey, we've got grandstands to fill!

So what's holding up the show? Thanks to crumbling stereotypes, the pipeline of future female racers is filling faster than ever. NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle drag racing proves that when it comes to skill and resolve, women are not lacking in the least. Feed enough racy young women into the machinery, turn the crank, and at some point in the future, you're going to get a Valentina Rossi. And the world will be a more interesting place.

But there are important questions still to be answered. Can women make a legitimate run at racing classes that demand abundant physical strength and endurance? More important, can strikingly attractive young men hold up umbrellas for female racers without looking flustered? The answers to both questions will reveal themselves only in the fullness of time.

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