In 1929, America appeared fairly totally different for girls than the nation we see at this time. Ladies had solely not too long ago been allowed to vote in elections, and so they’d been not too long ago been granted only a little bit of management over their property and earnings. Margaret Sanger had fought for a girl’s proper to find out about contraception, however there have been nonetheless limits on the instances and locations girls have been allowed to work. America was mere months away from the Nice Melancholy, an period that might see falling beginning and marriage charges and a rising variety of girls enter the workforce with the intention to help themselves. It was in 1929 that Maude Yagle turned the primary and solely lady to win the Indianapolis 500.
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Particulars about Yagle’s adolescence are difficult to come back by, however Kate Bekk of Motorsport Anthology reviews that her analysis reveals Yagle was born Maude Fagley on March 19, 1883. She hailed from a coal mining household, then discovered her approach to Philadelphia, the place she married profitable businessman Edward C. Yagle. His rising wealth enabled him to have interaction in motorsport, together with by sponsoring native racer Ray Keech in his pursuit of the World Land Pace Document. That gave Yagle her first style of motorsport, and she or he appeared to be hooked.
To say that girls weren’t welcome on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in that period — at the very least in an expert capability — could be an understatement. Ladies have been banned from coming into the press and pit areas till 1971 (and that was because of the power that was journalist Denise McCluggage), and no lady would get behind the wheel till Janet Guthrie certified for the enduring race in 1977. Sure, girls have been allowed to assist sponsor automobiles or take part with a group in different methods, however when it got here to truly encouraging girls to meaningfully interact with the operating of the race, nobody was all that keen to assist a girl out.
Not till Yagle.
In 1928, Yagle acquired a rear-wheel-drive automobile owned by the deceased Frank Lockhart, IndyStar reviews, and entered the automobile in races beneath the title M. A. Yagle in an effort to forestall drawing consideration to herself as a girl. She employed Ray Keech, a former World Land Pace file holder and the person whose file Lockhart was making an attempt to beat on the time of his dying, to drive the Miller Simplex Piston Ring Particular in 1928, and the machine was massively profitable, profitable three of the six races it entered that yr — however the Indy 500 couldn’t but be positioned on the victory checklist. Keech suffered mechanical hassle, and he completed in fourth place.
The subsequent yr, although, was much more profitable. As soon as once more, Yagle entered the Miller Simplex within the 500, retaining her extremely profitable driver into the 1929 season.
The 1929 Indy 500 was one in every of transition. It was the ultimate occasion to be contested with a 91.5 cubic-inch displacement engine, and it additionally noticed a wholesome mixture of front- and rear-wheel drive automobiles, with the front-wheel drive machines dominating qualifying. Keech, in his rear-wheel-drive machine, began in sixth. For the primary yr, nobody used a using mechanic.
Throughout the first 10 laps of the race, Keech has pushed his approach as much as second place however was pressured to make a protracted cease on lap 21 to vary a tire. His tempo, although, was simply as spectacular because it had been at first: he rejoined the sector in tenth and rapidly began choosing off automobiles on his approach to the lead. A 3-minute cease later within the race to prime up with gas and alter his three remaining tires didn’t hamper his momentum, and he cruised to an unchallenged victory when chief and reigning champion Louis Meyer misplaced gas strain on lap 157.
Keech’s victory was one for the historical past books. As he celebrated in victory lane, although, his record-breaking group proprietor Maude Yagle might do little greater than watch from the grandstands.
This story, although, isn’t essentially a cheerful one. On the time of Yagle’s 1928 entry, newspapers rapidly uncovered her true id. From the IndyStar:
However Ray Priest of Common Service information service took discover and revealed a narrative beneath the headline “Goshalmighty! Now look the place the ladies are horning in!” The story mentioned the “weaker intercourse invades the velocity recreation for no good cause in any respect, but it surely makes story.”
Yagle’s 500 victory ought to have silenced her critics, however Keech’s reign as champion lasted simply over two weeks. On June 15, 1929, Keech was concerned in a deadly accident on the Altoona 200-Mile Race on a board monitor in Pennsylvania. Particulars in regards to the four-car crash are troublesome to parse out, and a number of totally different variations of occasions have been reported. One driver struck a security railing, knocking it into the monitor. Whether or not Keech struck the railing himself, or struck one other automobile making an attempt to keep away from the railing, or each, is unclear. Stories agree that he was thrown from the automobile, however whether or not he was crushed by his personal careening chassis or run over by one other driver is unclear. What was clear, although, was that Keech was lifeless by the point the docs arrived. Allentown, PA newspaper The Morning Name reported that he was killed driving the Simplex Particular.
Yagle repaired the automobile and employed a brand new driver, Jimmy Gleason, to compete simply three months after Keech’s dying. He flipped the automobile in a race at Mineola Fairgrounds in New York and suffered extreme accidents. Newspapers reported that Yagle, who witnessed the wreck, was taken to the hospital with “epileptic suits and shock.” Each recovered, and so they teamed up once more to finish the 1929 season in October.
For 1930, Yagle employed a brand new face in Frank Farmer, however by now Yagle’s automobile was rumored to be jinxed — however for Farmer and the opposite drivers who piloted the machine, the rumors solely turned out to be a blended bag at greatest. Farmer was in a position to set a brand new lap file at Langhorne Speedway, a Pennsylvania filth oval, however altering tides noticed it fail to be aggressive within the Indianapolis 500. When it got here to competing on native tracks, nonetheless, the Yagle-Miller Particular was coveted sufficient that drivers have been keen to disregard its supposedly ailing destiny.
After which, in August 1932, Frank Farmer collided with one other driver throughout a warmth race. Each drivers died, and after seven years, Yagle’s automobile was lastly tucked away.
From there, it’s troublesome to know what occurred with Yagle — however there’s no file of her ever having entered one other race as a automobile proprietor. Nobody reported on her response. We are able to’t say for sure why, precisely, she withdrew from motorsport, however within the obituary following her dying in 1968 on the age of 85, there was no point out of her racing endeavors.
Yagle wasn’t the one lady to enter a automobile within the 500, however she undoubtedly stays probably the most profitable, which could be a sobering although contemplating the 100-plus years of racing at Indianapolis. Her place in historical past deserves to be acknowledged; then, we will really start pursuing our subsequent race-winning lady group proprietor.