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Closing out March, Women’s (Motorcycling) History Month…

we offer women who have published, played leadership roles, helped others get into motorcycling, worked behind the scenes, even ventured into racing and stunt riding where few women have tread before.
Women in Motorcycling History
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 she had competed in off-road enduros; at times her husband occupied the sidecar. The AMA, formed in 1924, had rules which prevented certain groups, including women, from participating in competition events. Dot pushed to be involved in enduro riding and by 1940 won the sidecar class with her Harley-Davidson FL sidecar rig, won again just after World War II. Toughened by her experiences, she, Linda Dugeau and others formed the Motor Maids in 1941. Dot was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998. 

British-born Theresa Wallach was a dispatch rider for the British military. After World War II she emigrated to America and became involved in motorcycle rider training. Like other women of her time, both in England and America, she was denied membership in clubs and involvement in racing events. Interestingly the biography the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame offers for her closes with: ”When I first saw a motorcycle, I got a message from it,” she said. “It (the motorcycle) was a feeling – the kind of thing that makes a person burst into tears hearing a piece of music or standing awestruck in front of a fine work of art. Motorcycling is a tool with which you can accomplish something meaningful in your life. It is an art.” Wallach was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2003. 

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. Together as a team they were Harley-Davidson, then Honda dealers. Margaret helped form the Iowa-based Corn State Riders Motorcycle Club in the early 1950s. Over the years, she was club secretary, even road captain. A serious and skilled rider, she was also the only female rider on the club’s organized Motorcycle Drill Team. Safety conscious, she and Mike were among the first to wear protective gear and encouraged others to do so. Margaret was voted America’s Most Popular and Typical Girl Rider for 1958 by AMA clubs. The huge trophy she received for this status is on display in the Women and Motorcycling section at the National Motorcycle Museum. Margaret was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2004.

Mary Cutright was a dedicated ambassador for the motorcycling sport and beginning in 1966 served as national President of the Motor Maids for 12 years. She bought her first motorcycle when she was about 19, and some years later learned about the Motor Maids. Serious about encouraging other women to ride, be involved, over the years Mary held various leadership roles within the organization. Mary was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1993.

Though 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. She has performed stunts in over 200 movies. Coming out of retirement in 1998 to compete in what would become an FIM recognized women’s trials competition, she has had two careers in professional trials riding. Evans always finished well up in scores whether in women-only or mixed competitions. Highly skilled as a motorcyclist, Evans has also road raced and in 1982 participated as a factory Honda rider in the Vetter High Mileage Contest. Debbie was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2003.

Passionate about motorcycle riding, now Motorcycle Hall of Famer Becky Brown knew motorcycling would be more fun for women if they could find other women to ride with. In 1979 Brown formed Women in the Wind, a long successful international motorcycle association. WITW has over 90 chapters in the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Australia, and for its kind of organization is the largest. WITW chapters bring members together to share experiences, talk motorcycles and of course, ride. For her good works, Becky was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002. Her purple Harley-Davidson Springer Soft Tail and many other personal items are on display in the Women & Motorcycling section at the National Motorcycle Museum.

Phyllis McClure and Jackie Trett were team managers for the successful drag racing careers of husbands Jim McClure and Elmer Trett. Whether it was being support to their husbands, or totally responsible for twisting wrenches for rebuilds at the track or back home at the shop, they were key to the success of their teammates, their husbands.

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. In what has often been considered a man’s sport, they gave up nothing to the men they teamed up with, were much more than pretty faces as they defied gravity and circled the Wall of Death.

Pearl Hoel and husband Pappy were Indian motorcycle dealers in Sturgis, South Dakota. The husband and wife team are generally credited with founding the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and organizing racing there about 1938, the Black Hills Classic. It is said, however, that it was Pearl who ran in the community societies and facilitated local government getting on board with the event we now call “Sturgis.” In fact some time back the Chamber of Commerce essentially took control of the event, succeeding the club in continuing to grow it. Pearl was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1991.

Sharon Clayton co-published Cycle News magazine, the standard bearer for up to date motorcycle racing news, for 30 years. She and her husband Chuck were already in the motorcycle industry when they relaunched a fledging Los Angeles motorcycle newspaper; Sharon’s “day job” was at J&R Engineering, Chuck was at Cycle and later Cycle World. With their weekly tabloid the husband and wife team brought us all the racing news while it was fresh; the average newsstand motorcycle magazine published two month old race results! Cycle News magazine lives on in gloriously illustrated digital form and subscriptions are free, the publication supported entirely by advertising. Sharon was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000.

Women’s National Motocross Champion Sue Fish served as a model for women inspired to get out on the motocross track. Like Debbie Evans, Fish worked as a Hollywood stuntwoman, was involved in the “Terminator” and “Footloose.” She was part of Evel Knievel’s stunt show when it performed in Australia. Sue was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2012.

The Rita Coombs family continues a decades long heritage of racing promotion and motorcycle magazine publishing. Producing AMA Pro Racing Motocross events, and AMA Cross Country and Enduro events for decades, originally lead by the patriarch, the late Dave Coombs, the family carries on in strength. Inspired by his parents to bring great stories of riders to fans, son Davey produces the lavishly illustrated Racer X Illustrated magazine. Says Davey of his mom in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame biography for his dad, “Mom was always right there, deeply involved,” Coombs Jr. says. “Dad was the thinker, the idea guy if you will, and mom was the manager. She put it all together. She was fully committed to Dad’s vision from day one.”

We know there are many more women who have contributed to the world of motorcycling, but trust you have enjoyed reading about the women we selected to help us all celebrate Women’s (Motorcycling) History Month, from a motorcyclist’s perspective.