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

November 28, 2020
The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of

A fascinating biography of the woman champion motorboat racer ofthe 1920s who in the '30s bought and became 'ruler' of an island inthe British West Indies. 'Joe' Carstairs was born in London in1900, the daughter of a Scottish colonel and an American heiress.Educated in Connecticut, she returned to Europe in 1916 and droveambulances for the Women's Legion in France. She deserted herhusband at the church door (marriage was a prerequisite of hercoming into her $4 million inheritance) and settled in Englandwhere she took up racing, established a boat yard at Cowes and wonnearly every trophy going. In the 30s she started traveling widely,finally moving to the West Indies where she bought the island ofWhale Cay. There she developed the island into a populatedcommunity, building everything from roads and schools tolighthouses and churches. Carstairs then succeeded in establishinghegemony over the 500 islanders, controlling not only their sexualmorals but also their diet. In 1944 she built a deepwater harborfor the Royal Navy's use and, without a word to her population,left the island to build warcraft in Florida, where she settled for40 years, having run a steamship freightline and set up a chain ofairports. Kate Summerscale's brilliant biography brings out ofobscurity a woman whose very boldness took her beyond fame andnotoriety.