Entirely in a class of her own, France's Camille du Gast was the first woman to compete seriously in motorsport, the first woman to make a parachute jump, an athlete in a range of disciplines, and an accomplished concert pianist.
In 1901, Camille du Gast entered herself in the Paris-Berlin race. As the only woman competitor, and piloting an under-powered car, race organisers decreed that du Gast would start last. She finished the race 33rd out of more than 100, determined to better the result next time. By the time of the infamous 1903 Paris-Bordeaux race, du Gast was behind the wheel of the ultra-competitive De Deitrich.
In the world of motorsport, Camille du Gast is probably best known for her actions in the 1903 race, which was cut short by the French government following a number of accidents that killed and injured spectators and racers alike.
One of those injured was De Deitrich driver Phil Stead, who was pinned under his car when it rolled into a ditch. Du Gast passed the injured Stead, and stopped to offer assistance. Her racing mechanic was able to move the car enough for Du Gast to nurse the injured man until an ambulance arrived on the scene. According to the doctors who later treated Stead, Du Gast's first aid probably saved his life.
Once Stead was in the doctors' care, Du Gast rejoined the race. But her impressive efforts would bear no fruit, and when she arrived in Bordeaux, the French racer was told that the race had been cancelled by the government.
In the aftermath of the Paris-Bordeaux race, the last European capital-to-capital road race, the Benz factory team offered Camille du Gast a race seat on the strength of her performance. But in 1904 the French government barred women from competing in motorsport, and the offer came to nothing.
With motorsport closed to her, du Gast turned her hand to motorboat racing. In her first year of competition, Camille du Gast was caught up in a violent storm during the 1905 Alger-Toulon race. Six of the seven boats were put out of action by the storm, and du Gast was declared the winner as the competitor who had come closest to finishing.
But Camille du Gast was more than just a fierce competitor. She was also a woman who gave a lot of time to charity. In addition to serving as president for the French Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, du Gast helped provide health care to disadvantaged women and children, campaigned against bull-fighting, and worked with orphans and the poor until her death in 1942, undeterred from her good works by the German occupation of Paris.
Kate Walker is F1 Editor of girlracer and Assistant Editor of GP Week. Follow her on Twitter @F1Kate, or read more of her writing at www.f1katewalker.com.