Women's (Motorcycle) History Month

Mar 17, 2022

Riders Share - Women's History - Kendra

As many of us bring our bikes out of winter storage, March is also a time for us to reflect. In 1987, congress finally saw fit to recognize March as Women's History Month. It is a time set aside to honor women's contributions to American history.

The Riders Share team is made up of people from all walks of life, but we all agree that the motorcycle is firmly part of American history. We also believe that you can't talk about motorcycle history without acknowledging the integral parts that women have played. From forming auxiliaries to starting their own clubs, setting world records to breaking down boundaries, women and motorcycles are inseparable.

No single blog post could pay homage to every accomplishment that women have brought to motorcycling. But we wanted to gather a few stories that have stuck with us. Our trip down memory lane starts just after the turn of the 20th century, when motorcycles themselves were still in their infancy.

Gussie and Addie Van Buren (Augusta and Adeline, as their birth certificates would have shown) were determined women. They wanted to prove that a woman could serve as a military dispatch rider as America prepared to enter World War I. So in 1916 the sisters took off to ride 5,500 miles across the United States. They followed the same route that Effie Hotchkiss had completed a year earlier, but they did in a mere 60 days what had taken Effie months to complete.

Gussie Addie Van Buren - Riders Share

Bessie Stringfield was a black woman with a lifelong passion for motorcycling. Born and raised in the Jim Crow south, she threw a leg over her first motorcycle at the age of 16. The 1928 Indian Scout may have started her love affair with the two-wheel life, but she eventually owned over 27 different Harley-Davidson motorcycles in her lifetime. By age 19 she started the first of her seven trips across the United States, eventually riding through all the lower 48. During World War II she worked as a civilian courier for the US Army, carrying documents from base to base on her personal Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.

Bessie Stringfiled - Riders Share - Women In Motorcycling.jpeg

Margaret Wilson rode her first motorcycle with her husband, Mike, in 1946. By 1950, she and Mike owned Wilson's Motorcycle Sales in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Margaret joined the Motor Maids women's motorcycling organization in 1951 and, until her death in 2014, logged over 550,000 miles across the United States and Canada. She was a pioneer of the lifestyle after World War II, helping to change the image away from a sport that was only acceptable for men.

Margaret Wilson - Motor Maids - Riders Share

Sue Fish is still around today, and if you're lucky, you might catch her speaking at a motorcycling event. Sue can tell you stories about playing Linda Hamilton's stunt double in The Terminator, but she's better known as the one who raced with the men. She won the Women's championship three times in her career, but she also raced in men's pro class events in the 1970s. She was one of the first women to hold a professional racing license from the AMA, and even competed against men in 600cc expert rank road races.

Becky Brown thought boys shouldn't be able to have all the fun. So in 1979 she took out a newspaper ad to find other women riders. Now, some forty years later, Women in the Wind has linked over 130 chapters of women from eight countries. The National Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, and The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame have all welcomed Becky into their ranks.

Of course we couldn't end our story without explaining the picture at the top of this article. That's our very own Kendra Lacy. She kept the shiny side up while carrying a passenger after her rear tire peeled while she was riding down the highway. But all's well that ends well. Because in true badass form, a group of women showed up to help her get it changed and get it back on the road.