MOTOCYCLE

CYCLING

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Moto Culture
Remembering One of The World’s Oldest All Female Motorcycle Club – Motor Maids Inc.
"A member must own her own motorcycle and must conduct herself as a “LADY” at all times"
America
December 2022

During the first four years, the club grew slowly. Wartime gas rationing made it nearly impossible to hold meet-ups. But thanks to Robinson’s reputation, the Motor Maids earned the support of Arthur Davidson, a founder of Harley-Davidson. The endorsement helped legitimize their pursuit. (Meanwhile, Robinson and her husband, Earl, operated a Harley dealership in Detroit.)

Dot Robinson (right) and her daughter pose with their Harleys in 1947.

Photo by Sam Shere/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

On May 27 and 28, 1944, the Motor Maids met for their first convention in Columbia, Ohio. At the time, many members worked in the military as dispatch riders, convoy escorts, and couriers. Soon they voted to revise the uniform colours to blue and silver, with a shield logo. They would still wear white gloves for formal events and parades.

The Motor Maids hold their first formal convention in Columbia, Ohio, in 1944

Photo by Harley Davidson Museum

The relaxation of the feminine standard seemed to appeal to women, and membership grew in the 1950s. Kansas City resident Aggie Hunt joined in 1953 because the Maids didn’t use starter buttons. According to a 2012 interview with the Kansas City Star, when she was 87, Hunt liked that they used kick-starters, which required a strong jump to roar a bike to life.

In fact, the Motor Maids had lots of rules. In the 1950s, they still wore matching lipstick, but the main requirements were: A member must own her own motorcycle, and must conduct herself as a “lady” at all times. Applicants received a temporary membership card for a three-month probation period, during which time officers checked their character references and researched local gossip. If anything fishy came up, the admission decision was turned over to a secret five-person membership board for a vote.

“Due to the secrecy of the board, you are never sure you are not sitting next to a board member, and it tends to help remind us to always be aware of the impression we make on others while in a group,” according to a special Motor Maid section of American Motorcyclist magazine, in 1955.

But don’t get us wrong, the editorial argued, we aren’t a bunch of old fuddy-duddies. We have fun. In winters, when ridership dipped, Motor Maid chapters organized roller skating parties to “keep muscles active” for spring; they played BINGO and hosted motorcycle movie nights; they made trips to wineries or simply ambled off the road to pick apricots; they raised money for breast cancer patients and research. At conventions, they gave awards for the woman who had travelled the furthest (usually a Hawaii resident). In 1957, Hunt was a runner-up for “The Most Typical and Popular Girl Rider.” She laughed at the memory: “They called us ‘girls’ back then. I don’t know what the ‘typical’ part stood for.”

But mostly, they just rode together.

Besides her active role as president, Robinson continued to compete. The mostly male establishment attempted to prevent her from racing, but she persisted and opened the doors for many women after her.

Through it all, and despite the Motor Maids uniform change, Robinson stayed true to her own aesthetic. In her later years, she bought a giant pink Harley and rode it all over Florida, where she retired. Her favorite trip was a 6,000-mile tour through Australia, where she was born. She rode until the age of 85, when knee surgery finally foiled her passion. Estimates put her lifetime motorcycling mileage around 1.5 million. She died in 1999 at age 87.

Motor Maids Inc. took part in the 9/11 memorial back in 2011

Photo by Sam Shere / The Life Picture Collection / Getty Images

Through it all, and despite the Motor Maids uniform change, Robinson stayed true to her own aesthetic. In her later years, she bought a giant pink Harley and rode it all over Florida, where she retired. Her favorite trip was a 6,000-mile tour through Australia, where she was born. She rode until the age of 85, when knee surgery finally foiled her passion. Estimates put her lifetime motorcycling mileage around 1.5 million. She died in 1999 at age 87.

The Motor Maids have a Convention once a year somewhere in the US or Canada

Photo by Motor Maids Inc.

Cofounder Linda Dugeau moved to Los Angeles, the city of freeways. There she zoomed around delivering blueprints on a red Harley. As a safety precaution, she also wore a red vest and tied a long red scarf in her ponytail. She died in 2000 at age 86.

Today, more than 78 years later, The Motor Maids are one of the oldest motorcycle organizations still active in North America and have more than 1,300 members across the United States and Canada.

Are you a member of an all-female motorcycle club? If you would like to tell us about your experience, please get in touch with us here.

The original article was written by Stephanie Buck at medium.com.

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