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Fast Women

Published: 10/2/2011

Betty Skelton Erde (AP Photo)Betty Skelton Erde, 85, was an auto racing pioneer who was once the fastest woman on Earth, according to an Associated Press obituary.

The obit said: She achieved dozens of firsts: the auto industry's first female test driver in 1954; the first woman to set a world land speed record in 1956 (145 mph at Daytona Beach); and the world's land speed record for women in 1965, hitting 315.72 mph at Bonneville, Utah. She was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Erde, who flew planes into her 70s, drove a red Corvette around The Villages retirement community in Florida until she was 82.

A handful of other women race car drivers – and plenty of their male counterparts – died in recent weeks. Among them are:

Ramonde Ruckel (Northwest Florida Daily News)Ramonde “Rae” Ruckel took up racing cars in the 1960s, when she was in her 40s.

She traveled the southeast racing her Formula I Lotus, where she was known as the “Racing Grandmother” and placed third in Road Atlanta, according to the obit in the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Rachel Sokoloff, 88, of Atlanta, who drove ambulances for the Red Cross in London during World War II, was a race car driver for Volkswagen Young Limited of Canada, according to the obit in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jill Mannino (Santa Ynez Valley News)Jill Trix Meissner Mannino, 48, was an avid race car driver who had worked for Bondurant Racing School in Arizona, according to the obituary in the Santa Ynez (Calif.) Valley News.

But her true passions in life were horses and cattle. She was a supreme horsewoman who enjoyed her equine companions and the amazing people they led her to.

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This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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