March is Women’s History Month, a recognition that began in 1987. With the Mission of the National Motorcycle Museum focused on preserving and presenting motorcycling history, each week in March we’ll bring you stories of women who ride now or have ridden in the past, and contributed somehow to the quality of motorcycling.
To kick things off, here’s a list of women, some of whom are in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. They are among many women who have made notable contributions to motorcycling.
The mother and daughter team of Effie and Avis Hotchkiss made motorcycling history when they left New York en route to the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco.
British-born Theresa Wallach was a dispatch rider for the military. After World War two she emigrated to America and became involved in motorcycle rider training.
The Van Buren sisters were among the first to ride coast to coast, traveling aboard a pair of then new Indian Power Plus motorcycles in 1916. On that trip they also rode up Pikes Peak, were the first women to do so.
African-American Bessie Stringfield, a woman living in the American South made numerous long tours in 1930s and 1940s on a full dress Harley-Davidson.
Dot Robinson is historically one of the bolder women in organized motorcycling. Riding one of her pink Harley-Davidsons she was for decades the face of the Motor Maids, but earlier in life had competed in off-road enduros; at times her husband occupied the sidecar.
A highly active Motor Maid based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the diminutive Margaret Wilson logged more than 550,000 miles on motorcycles. Attending races and rallies with her husband Mike, they seemed newlyweds for over seven decades.
Mary Cutright was a dedicated ambassador for the motorcycling sport and served as national President of the Motor Maids for 12 yearsThough Debbie Evans is famed for her observed trails riding in the 1970’s, she is also a highly skilled movie stunt rider, often standing in for male movie stars.
Becky Brown knew motorcycling would be more fun for women if they could find others to ride with. Brown formed Women in the Wind, a long successful international motorcycle association.
Phyllis McClure and Jackie Trett were team managers for the successful drag racing careers of husbands Jim McClure and Elmer Trett.
Sandra D, Cookie Crum, Viola Pelaquin, Dotti Moss and Samantha Morgan were among just a few dozen risk taking female Wall of Death riders who thrilled crowds for a century.
Pearl Hoel and husband Pappy were Indian motorcycle dealers in Sturgis, South Dakota and are generally credited with founding the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and organizing racing there in 1938, the Black Hills Classic
Hazel Kolb called herself The Motorcycling’ Grandma. Hazel toured all 50 United States and worked the media to bring positive attention to motorcycling, and especially women who rode.
Cris Sommer-Simmons and Linda Giovannoni had an idea; create a magazine for women who wanted to ride. Harley Women magazine surely inspired many who ride to this day. And Simmons has participated in the Motorcycle Cannonball Cross Country Endurance since its inception, riding machines as early as a 1915 Harley-Davidson.
Sharon Clayton co-published Cycle News magazine, the standard bearer for up to date motorcycle racing news, for 30 years. The magazine lives on in digital form.
Sue Slate and Gin Shear are two ambitious women who partnered over a decade ago to create awareness for the need to find a cure for breast cancer. Organizing the Pony Express Ride for the Cure in the mid-1990’s, over many years they involved thousands of riders in fundraising to support research. “Gin and Sue are phenomenal women who have truly made a difference in the fight against breast cancer,” says Susan Braun, president and CEO of the Komen Foundation, the beneficiary of Gin and Sue’s work.
Women’s National Motocross Champion Sue Fish served as a model for women inspired to get out on the motocross track.
The Rita Coombs family continues a decades long heritage of racing promotion and motorcycle magazine publishing.
Much like in automobile racing, in the past few decades women have become a force to reckon with in motorcycle drag racing and land speed record competition.