28 April 2010

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of "Joe" Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water

'British eccentric Marion "Joe" Carstairs (1900-1993) was a world-class speedboat racer, heiress to the Standard Oil fortune, ruler of her own Caribbean Island ... and a cross-dressing lesbian. This biography places Carstairs's adventurous life in the context of 20th-century attitudes toward sexual deviance. During the permissive 1920s, Carstairs was able to flaunt her taste for women in the bohemian circles of London and Paris. She had affairs with numerous gals, including Natalie Barney and Dolly Wilde, Oscar's niece. When writing about Carstairs's boat races, the press of that roaring decade regarded her as a loveable tomboy. But as social norms shifted in the '30s, Carstairs's lifestyle was frowned upon. So she acquired Whale Cay, an island off the coast of Florida, turned it into her own version of paradise, became a gentleman farmer, and had an affair with Marlene Dietrich. Carstairs's most important and long-term relationship, though, was with Lord Tod Wadley, a stuffed leather doll.'


Lisa said...

Wow! She sounds fascinating!

Belle de Ville said...

I've got to read this! I find it fascinating how wild women (and men) went in the 1920's only to go back to observing societies norms in the 1930's, as if the 20's never happened. I guess that you couldn't stay wild unless you had your own island.

Toby Worthington said...

I found this book years ago at Hatchard's Book Shop in Picadilly, and began reading it at the top of a No.14
bus. Got into hysterics over Lord Todd Watley in his
various guises~who would not?~and was nearly thrown off the bus for disrupting the peace. Yet Joe
Carstairs wasn't entirely a joke despite her devotion to
a rag doll. In fact she was a marvelous woman, full of
generous impulses.