Women Have Always Enjoyed Travels with Harley


Last week I talked about how much I love to Google the history of Harley Davidson, and this weekend wasn’t any different. Surrounded by my cats and Jim I found out some fascinating things about women and motorcycles that made me think I just might want to get my own Harley Davidson…


It was 1915 when Indian Motorcycles starting offering customers both front and rear shock absorbers. Because they tended to cushion the ride, folks started to think about traveling long distances on the back of a motorcycle, much like Jim and I do in, “Travels with Harley.” That same year Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, a mother and daughter duo, road all the way from New York to the city by the bay, San Francisco. Instead of opting for the direct route, they decided to take their time and enjoy the countryside traveling over 5,000 miles on the back of their Indian.

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The following year Augusta and Adeline Van Buren, two high society women approaching their mid-twenties, decided to buy a couple of Indian Powerplus motorcycles and be the first to make their way up and down the famed Pike’s Peak. They succeeded and although the 3,300 mile trip took nearly two months, they came back talking about unpaved roads and an arrest for wearing trousers in public.

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The Enthusiast was published by Harley Davidson and sponsored a woman by the name of Vivian Wales. The trip involved a 5000 mile trip from the Harley factory. Known as the motorcycle cover girl, Vivian took several long distance motor cycle rides on the back of her Harley. It must have done something because Vivian, who was born in 1909, lived to be 92.


Another early motorcycle heroine went by the name of Bessie Stringfield, affectionately known as the Motorcycle Queen of Miami. She was a dispatch rider and made an astonishing eight solo trips across the United States. Back in the 1920’s, Bessie already had two strikes against her. One, she was a woman, and two, she was African-American. In fact, the police had to intercede after the state would not issue her a motorcycle license.


During the 1930’s motorcycle riders became daredevils with motordromes popping up all over the United States. Advertised as the, “Wall of Death,” the motordrome consisted of a giant barrel that held a platform for viewers who could peer down on the riders who would speed around the walls on the inside. One of the first women to appear at the motordrome was the, “Mile a Minute Girl,” Margaret Gast who was later joined by fellow daredevil, May Williams and Jean Perry.

In 1940, the Motormaids became the very first motorcycle club for women and is still around today.


Now I’m not so sure I would ride solo across the United States, but I wouldn’t mind riding next to Jim on my own custom Harley Davidson in Travels with Harley.