WACO, Texas -- Janet Guthrie has no doubts about her racing skills, but she credits the activity of the national women's movement for opening the gates for he to become the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500.
'Except for the disruptive activity of the women's movement a decade ago, I would never have gotten the chance to drive at Indianapolis,' Guthrie said Wednesday in a speech at Baylor University's Women's Athletic Banquet.
'I don't see how any woman could not be a feminist at least in principle, though I am not politically active,' she said.
Guthrie defined feminism as 'being for the freedom of women to choose. If they choose to be wives and mothers, fine, but that shouldn't be the only avenue open to them.'
In response to questions about whether her auto racing was a statement for women's rights, she said, 'Don't be absurd. It's not a statement of anything except my desire to do the most challenging thing I can think of.'
Guthrie pointed out that women placed high in international car races in Europe as early as 1901.
'But when I entered at Indy in 1976, the cry in America was still, 'Women can't do it.''
She said that in this society, 'It is hard for a man to take the words, 'You let a girl beat you.''
Regarding men's changing attitudes toward women, she said, 'Man doesn't live by words alone, but sometimes he has to eat them.'
She believes her racing has contributed to a growing national awareness that women deserve recognition for their accomplishments -- the same as men.
'One of the main weapons used to keep women in their traditional place at home, barefooted and pregnant, has been silence,' she said.
'I used to ask myself, 'What's wrong with me for liking a sport associated with men?' But after studying a little psychology, I decided there was nothing wrong with wanting to do the most challenging thing I could do.'