A hardcore bruiser of a Frenchwoman with a bad attitude, a vicious mean streak, and a right hook that hit like a thermonuclear warhead, Violette Morris was a tough-as-shit asskicker who won over twenty French national athletics titles in everything from boxing to shotput, earned over 50 medals for busting heads in national and international competition, took the field in over 200 professional soccer matches, placed first in almost two dozen auto and motorcycle long-distance endurance races, then responded to being barred for life from French sports by joining the Gestapo, terrorizing the French Resistance with a nail-studded whip, and then dying in a withering hail of machine gun fire when a joint British/French Commando raid peppered her supercharged sports car with enough ammunition to take down an F-15.
And yeah, I know, the Nazi connection leaves a bad taste in my mouth too, but in this case I'm going to argue that the purpose of this site isn't to write effusive praise-happy love songs to the most kind-hearted puppy-hugging humanitarians in Rainbow Land, but rather to tell tales of history's most balls-out heroes, villains, psychos, madmen, and anyone else who did badass shit.
And this chick did some pretty badass shit.
Violette Morris was the daughter of some prominent French Baron or General or whatever the fuck, but the fact that she was much more likely to sucker-punch a dude in the nads and steal the keys for his hotrod than she was to curtsey to a stupid Marquis made her kind of a poor candidate for Baroness-daughter-ness, so instead of ramming Finishing School down her throat like a doily-embellished tongue depressor pops shipped Violette off to be raised in a nice quiet convent instead. As you can probably guess, a bisexual future Gestapo interrogator who smokes 3 packs a day and swears like a fucking sailor isn't exactly a satisfactory fit for a nunnery either, so instead of settling down and playing nice Violette took her time in the Lord's House and dedicated it to violently owning every woman there in every single sport that has ever been invented.
Despite being just 5'5" tall and 150 pounds, Violette Morris was basically the LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Alabama Crimson Tide of everything in France in the early 20th century. At French track and field championships, she won the national title in archery, weightlifting, cycling, swimming, tennis, and a couple other stuff I don't feel like listing. She tried out for – and made – the French National Water Polo team, which is fairly mind-blowing because there wasn't a women's program in the sport and she is, to this day, the only female to ever make the men's squad. She also played midfield on a national champion soccer team, going up against both men's and women's teams, and was not only the women's national heavyweight champion in boxing, but was so fucking hardcore at that shit that she would routinely put on public displays where she'd take on any challengers – men or women – that thought they could fuck with her and pummel them senseless with a vicious series of Dragon Punches and Tiger Uppercuts.
When some random gigantic globe-spanning war with Germany broke out in 1914, Violette's boxing gym was redecorated over to be a Red Cross aid station, so Morris naturally just said fuck it and volunteered to run head-on into enemy bullets for her country. Her crazy daredevil driving skills and complete immunity to fear and Fear-based effects got her a cushy job driving an ambulance on the front lines during World War I, where she would basically haul ass at maximum velocity in what basically amounted to a modified fucking Model-T Ford, dodging German machine gun fire and swerving past artillery shells and bombed-out craters in a furious effort to get critically-wounded French soldiers to the hospital before they bled out and died. No pressure.
Her first posting was the Battle of Verdun, where she drove her ambulance through one of the bloodiest battles in human history, with two million men killing each other over the course of 10 months of non-stop homicide. After that she worked as a courier during the Battle of the Somme – the second biggest battle of the war behind Verdun – where her job involved navigating a rubble-strewn, bullet-riddled, trench-filled wasteland from hell behind the handlebars of a suped-up government-issue motorcycle to deliver orders and supplies that were critical to the French war effort. During her adventure at the Somme, she wrecked her bike no fewer than three times, and every time she just pulled herself out of the mud, dusted herself off, repaired her bike on the spot in the middle of a goddamned warzone, and completed her mission.
Battlefield at the Somme. Not good motorcycle terrain.
After the war Violette Morris took a brief break to win Olympic Gold Medals in discus, javelin, and shot put (yawn), but the need for speed was in Morris's veins, and, as I mentioned in the intro, the only way you were going to get this woman out from behind the steering wheel was in a body bag.
Her first non-life-or-death competitive speed-based driving experience was in 1922, when she received a brand-new B.N.C. cyclecar and entered the Bol d'Or – an ultra-grueling 24-hour endurance road race that required competitors not only to stay awake for Keifer Sutherlandian spans of time, but to spend that entire span hauling fucking ass and navigating hairpin corners as fast as your top-of-the-line race car can carry you. She'd been entered by some dipshit promoter who thought it would be a novelty to enter a woman in the race because ha ha ha what the fuck.
She placed fourth and set a new lap record. By 1926 she'd be the three-time defending champion.
Two weeks after her first shot at the Bol d'Or, Morris entered another typically-men's-only race, and kicked everyone's asses by driving a 750 cc, 90 horsepower open-top cyclecar through the treacherous winding roads of the Pyrenees Mountain range faster than any man ever had. A year later she'd win the Grand Prix de San-Sebastian, the Bol d'Or, and be the proud owner of the Women's Racing Cup, the Team Racing Cup, and the President's Racing Cup, which is basically the Sprint Cup of mid-century France. She was like Danica Patrick if Danica Patrick actually won races.
Throughout the mid-20s Violette Morris continued dominating everyone and everything, but her ultra-aggressive, balls-out, in-your-face style really pissed a bunch of jackasses off. Like, apparently a bunch of up-tight dickwads thought she was being all "unladylike" or whatever the fuck just because when she was playing for the French National Women's Soccer team she'd repeatedly respond to hard fouls against her teammates by taking the offending opposing player out with a dirty tackle (or just straight-up coldcocking them in the jaw in the middle of the pitch), drawing a red card, and then go back and get busted having sex with her teammates in the locker room after the match.
Morris didn't give a fuck. She continued to dominate sports and racing, was openly public about her relationships with women, dressed like a man, fought hard, drank harder, and sang bawdy songs at Parisian nightclubs with cool chicks like Josephine Baker. Late in 1926 she even got a double-mastectomy, having her breasts removed old-school Greek Amazon style, ostensibly because they were so huge that she couldn't fit behind the wheel of a race car (I like to think of this as the feminine version of that joke I like to make about fighter pilots having balls so huge they don't fit in the cockpit), though my guess is the actual reasoning behind this move probably went a little deeper than automobile maneuverability concerns.
Well eventually the French Athletics Commission got a little fed up with this and decided that because Violette Morris liked to wear pants and touch other women's boobs she shouldn't be allowed to play sports anymore. She was stripped of her athletics license, banned from all sporting events in France, and barred from participating in the 1928 Olympic Games. She appealed this decision on grounds of "WTF Holmes", and not only was her case thrown out, but the French media covering the trial obliterated her in the press with a smear campaign that makes the YouTube commenter community look like a support group for single moms. She opened an auto shop building race cars, which was basically the next best thing to actually getting to drive them, but then she lost her business in the Great Depression of 1929 and was forced to scrape together a living by giving tennis lessons to the dumbass kids of rich aristocratic douchebags.
Morris was pissed. And she wanted revenge.
She got the opportunity in 1936, when one of her former racing rivals named Gertrude Hannecker, an undercover Nazi spy, came to her with an interesting question – how far are you willing to go to wreak vengeance on the French establishment?
Well the story gets fucked up from here. Morris joined the Reich, performed acts of espionage against the French government throughout the late 30s, and when France finally fell to Hitler in 1940 Violette Morris became so ferocious in her tactics rooting out the French Resistance that she was known as "The Hyena of the Gestapo". Rolling through town with psychotic thugs named One-Armed Jean, Jo the Mammoth, and Le Sanguinaire ("The Bloodthirsty"), this former boxing champ realized she had a hell of a knack for beating confessions out of prisoners – which, incidentally, is kind of the Gestapo's thing anyways – and armed with nothing more than a whip and a zippo lighter she destroyed Resistance cells and British SOE spies anywhere she could find them. Which is admittedly pretty impressive, even though I don't exactly have any love for her ideology.
So… yeah, it's kind of a bitter finale because this chick goes from Jimmy Johnson to Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS in the course of like 2 paragraphs, but it turned out that by-and-large the Nazis tended to get what was coming to them, and that's exactly how it went down with Violette Morris. She became so notorious in her counter-espionage tactics that the SOE organized a special mission to take her out of the picture, and on April 26, 1944 – just a month or so before D-Day – British Commandos and French Resistance partisans ambushed her and opened fire on her supercharged sports car with a dozen or so machine guns, whacking her out in slow motion Sonny Corleone-style. She was buried in a potter's field and is now basically almost universally-despised by everyone in France. Which, honestly, should probably count as bonus points somewhere.
Dorian Gray's Closet
Le Blog Auto
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Debordes, Jean. Paroles de Resistants. Editions de Boree, 2003.
Moore, Allison. Sexing Political Culture in the History of France. Cambria, 2012.
Rejali, Darius. Torture and Democracy. Princeton Univ. Press, 2009.