Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Roberta Cowell Story -- Auto Racing, Spitfire Pilot, and the first known British Transsexual Woman to Undergo Reassignment Surgery

Hi folks -- this is a story that while well publicized in Britain, may well be a topic of further historical work. I ran across the Roberta (formerly Bob) Cowell (1918-2011) story while glancing through a 1958 Speed Age magazine last night. (January, 1958), p. 39. the story reports "Roberta Cowell sets new ladies' fastest time at Britain's National Speed Hill Climb. Known 10 years ago as Bob Cowell, tracing driver and ex-fighter pilot, she registered formal sex change six years ago."

Just doing a bit of research, I discovered Bob Cowell caught the racing bug at Brooklands in 1936, raced a Riley at the Lands End Speed Trial. In 1939 he competed at the Antwerp Grand Prix, and later became an RAF Spitfire and test pilot during WWII. After WWII and his sex change he won the 1957 Shelsley Walsh Speed Trial Hill Climb, and was active in motorsports to the 1970s despite having financial difficulties.

Sounds like a nice topic, even though the Brits have written him up.  Go deeper into the story?

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