Now known as the voice that announces the start of the Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Mari Hulman George was barred from checking in on the pit crew servicing the race car she owned back in the 1960s. Although these days Mari George invites “ladies” along with “gentlemen [to] start [their] engines,” the longtime prohibition of women from Gasoline Alley wasn’t officially reversed until May 28, 1971, when journalist Bettie Cadou entered the track’s inner sanctum with silver-badge credentials to report for the Indianapolis News . Her access to the pits and garages that spring was facilitated by Women’s World staffer Mari McCloskey, who had sued to obtain a restraining order against track officials barring her entrance. Then-owner Tony Hulman, Jr. followed suit by lifting the track’s restrictions against women.
Though legally sanctioned, the female presence at the track was not unanimously welcomed. Cadou reported being nearly run down by an electric cart and having her line of sight obscured so that she couldn’t photograph the race cars. Her persistence in the male-dominated field of sports writing eventually resulted in her membership in the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, not to mention her extensive coverage of the Colts for national publications after the team’s move to Indianapolis in the early 80s. Cadou served as editor for the Colts periodical Hoofbeats in the 90’s.
Beyond the world of sports, the central Indiana native distinguished herself with investigative pieces on migrant workers and the Ku Klux Klan, and taught journalism at IUPUI and Butler. Bettie Cadou passed away in 2002.