This May marks the third annual Women Riders Month created by Harley Davidson. E3 Spark Plugs celebrates with a look back at a few of the bold souls who dared to ride back when motorcycles were a decidedly men-only activity:
Effie and Avis Hotchkiss: When young Effie Hotchkiss decided she wanted to see America on the open road, she took a bit of inheritance money and spent it on a 1915 3-speed V-twin Harley Davidson. But mom, Avis, vetoed the idea. After all, it was the height of the Victorian era and ladies just didn’t take off on cross-country bike tours back in the day. Effie protested and Avis finally gave in with one caveat – that Effie take her mom along in a sidecar. They set out from Brooklyn, New York and made it to San Francisco two months later, just in time for the World’s Fair. Their transcontinental trek was the first for women motorcycle riders.
Bessie Stringfield: Stringfield took pushing the social acceptance envelope even further. As not just a woman rider, but an African American rider, she rammed through the racial and gender barriers completing eight, count ‘em EIGHT solo cross-country tours and serving as a United States Army motorcycle dispatch rider traveling through the Southern states during the 1930s. Mind you, this was during a time that daring to be black and successful in the mainstream came with a palpable threat of racial prejudice and violence.
Dorothy “Dot” Robinson: Known as the “First Lady of Motorcycling,” Robinson co-founded Motor Maids in 1940. The organization aimed to unite women who owned motorcycles and was instrumental in convincing women nationwide to give motorcycling a try. Granted an American Motorcycle Association charter in 1941, Motor Maids was the nation’s first organized women’s motorcycle club. With this accomplishment, plus several competitive victories including being the first woman to win an AMA national competition placing first in the sidecar class of the Jack Pine National Endurance Championship, Robinson paved the way for women riders in the competitive arena.
Talk about your spark plug personalities! In her book, The American Motorcycle Girls: 1900 to 1950, author Cristine Sommer Simmons details the lives and accomplishments of Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, Stringfield, Robinson and other pioneering women riders. Check it out and be sure to check with your nearest Harley Davidson dealer for info on Women Riders Month events, including Saturday’s nationwide Women’s Ride Day. And be sure to stock your bike with E3 motorcycle spark plugs for a cleaner, stronger, smoother ride.