Alice Mayer and Annalise Taller

A Q&A with National History Day Winners for Senior Group Documentary

Each year, students from around the country become historians as they participate in National History Day, a nation-wide competition where students deep dive into a topic of their choice and develop their communication, project management, and historical thinking skills along the way. As part of the national competition, the National Women’s History Museum sponsors the Women’s History prize, which is awarded to the best project in either division, in any category, that focuses on the contribution, accomplishments, experiences, and perspectives of women in U.S. history.

Meet two of the winners of the 2023 Women’s History Prizes, Alice Mayer and Annalise Taller of Indiana. They won for their documentary, Janet Guthrie: Paving the Way for Women. This past winter, we asked Alice and Annalise to share their experience researching women’s stories.

Can you tell us about your project? What was it about?

This was our second year creating a documentary and competing in National History Day. The first year we didn’t make it past the regional competition, so this year we really wanted to make it to state. We never thought that a documentary that Alice wrote and I edited about a local (Indiana based) story would make it all the way to the national competition, much less be awarded a prize for Best Senior Project on Women’s History. We created a documentary for National History Day about Janet Guthrie, the first woman to run the Indy 500. Janet Guthrie was a perfect fit for the NHD theme this year, "Frontiers in History," as she created a frontier for women in racing, a primarily male dominated sport. Throughout her three Indy 500s, she faced much prejudice from the media, fans, and even some of her fellow racers. Regardless, her racing skills showed through the criticism and she was able to gain the respect of racing fans and her peers, such as four-time Indy 500 winner AJ Foyt. Women all across the country were able to see and be inspired by Guthrie’s achievements, paving the way for future female racers. 


Why did you choose to tell a story that centered women’s history?

When we were originally searching for topic ideas, we were not looking specifically for a story in women’s history. However, when we found articles about Janet Guthrie and how much she went through in her racing career, we felt very inspired and knew we had to do our project about her. We both do various sports, and seeing representation and feeling so fascinated by her achievements, we knew we had to share her story with a wider audience!


What was your favorite thing that you learned while working on this project? What is something surprising that you learned while working on this project?

One of our favorite things we learned while doing our project was how Janet Guthrie got her start in racing. She decided that it was something she wanted to do, and made it happen. She did all of the framework for her first car and built her way up with smaller races until she reached Indycar level driving. The most surprising thing we learned was during the 1978 Indy 500, Guthrie drove the race with a broken wrist and still placed 9th! This stood as the highest placement by a woman in the Indy 500 for almost 40 years until Danica Patrick got 3rd in 2009.