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Women Riders - History

Photo of Motor Maids Linda Dugeau, Dot Robinson, and Vivian Bales

Women have always been a part of the Harley-Davidson® family

As early as the 1910s, female riders did everything the men did, from lazy weekend rides to long-distance journeys. In fact, in 1915, a mother and daughter by the names of Avis and Effie Hotchkiss made history by crossing America - twice - on a three-speed V-Twin with a sidecar. The following year, Enthusiast magazine began publication, featuring many early accounts of women and motorcycling.

As the decades progressed, more and more women distinguished themselves as great motorcycle enthusiasts, most notably the following:

Vivian Bales of Albany, Georgia drew attention for her 5,000-mile round-trip journey from her home through the upper Midwest in 1929. Bales appeared on two different covers of The Enthusiast, and was later dubbed "The Enthusiast Girl."

Dorothy "Dot" Robinson, the wife of dealer Earl Robinson, competed alongside men in endurance races during the Depression. She was also co-owner of the Detroit dealership and a motorcycle courier during World War II. Known as "The First Lady of Motorcycling," she estimated logging over 1.5 million miles on motorcycles throughout her lifetime.

Trailblazer Bessie Stringfield left her mark on the sport of motorcycling by being the first African-American woman to complete a solo cross-country ride. During the '30s and '40s, she traveled through all of the lower 48 states and rode abroad in Europe, Brazil, and Haiti. She also joined an army motorcycle dispatch unit during World War II, making runs across America.

Photo of Bessie Stringfield, the first African-American woman to ride across the US, solo

The Motor Maids, the world's first women's motorcycle club, was founded in the 1930s by Wellesley College graduate Linda Dugeau. The club became home to Dot Robinson, who was its first president, as well as countless others into the present day.

More modern times have witnessed the creation of the clubs "Women in the Wind" and "Women on Wheels," which boast large numbers of members and local chapters across North America. Today, one in ten riders is a woman, and female riders are the fastest-growing segment of the riding population.