Monday, May 9, 2016

We've come a long way, Mama!!

In light of Mother's Day, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite "Mothers of Motorcycling for Modern Day Women" on this blog. Not only because of "women power", "feminism" or the "gender pay gap" - but also because these ladies are just fantastic human beings who faced the odds against them, yet succeeded.

And, let's be honest, until this century women riding motorcycles wasn't considered 'the norm'. When I first started riding nearly all my gear was made for a man! Even back in 2008 (when I first started working at a motorcycle dealership) and I'd help out in the Parts department, I'd occasionally have a customer ask to speak to one of the guys because he didn't trust what I - a woman (gasp!) - had told him. [For the record, I did give the correct part or advice 99% of the time!]

But now the times are changing.... for the better that is. At least where women riding motorcycles is concerned. There's a lot more riding gear for us now, and it's fairly common to see a woman 'riding her own'. However, these are the ladies that heralded our motorcycling ways, way back in the day. In no particular order I'd like to introduce you to: 

The year is 1914 - a time where women were expected to be polite and only speak when spoken to. Hell, we couldn't even vote!! Yet this young lady, already an experienced traveler, began her journey on her Harley-Davidson® from Waco, Texas the 'round about way to New York City, 5,378 miles.

This lady had more courage in her little finger than most people have in a lifetime! At age 19 she'd toss a penny over a map and ride to where ever it landed - crossing the lower 48 states six times. As a black woman, often she couldn't find a place to stay. This didn't stop Bessie! She simply rolled up her leather jacket to use as a pillow on her handlebars, rested her feet on the rear fender, and slept at gas stations.

As America was about to enter World War I, these sisters wanted to prove women could serve in the military as dispatch riders. So they set off from Brooklyn, NY to Los Angeles, CA. Along the way they made even more history by being the first to climb to the top of Pikes Peak by motor vehicle. Despite their epic and successful journey, even though they were arrested several times for wearing men's clothing, their application to join the military was rejected.

This is the 100th Anniversary Year of Gussie & Addie's trip. Their ride is being recreated and you can learn about that by clicking here.

The ultimate mother-daughter bonding road trip!! Effie - a single, professional woman - was over-stressed. Given the 'prescription' to stop all work and be on rest, she bought a 1915 11-F Harley-Davidson® so she could see the vast countryside that she'd only dreamed of. After adding a sidecar that would enable her mother, Avis, to join her, they'd take daily trips outside of their home town of Brooklyn. According to Effie, it was Avis who came up with the idea of riding out to San Francisco, for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. And so they did, and then back to Brooklyn, a 9,000 mile round trip, becoming the first transcontinental women motorcyclists.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention:
Considered by many as the "First Lady of Motorcycling", Dot was riding motorcycles before she was born (her mother was rushed to the hospital by motorcycle to deliver Dot). All throughout her childhood and into her adult years she was surrounded by the motorcycle industry. After she married, Dot and her husband entered endurance runs & races - despite race officials attempting to ban her. But is was during the Laconia National that she was approached by a fellow female rider, Linda Dugeau, about starting a women's riding organization. Within a year, the Motor Maids had been born.

So I'd like to conclude by saying "Happy Mother's Day" to these lovely ladies. They helped to 'give birth' to all the women riders we have today!!
Me and my 2004 Dyna Super Glide, taking the ferry across Lake Champlain