I discovered this pair of names in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum:
Augusta and Adeline Van Buren — descendents of former president Martin Van Buren — were the first women to ride across the continent on two solo motorcycles.
Gussie (b. 1884) and Addie (b. 1889) set off from Brooklyn on July 4, 1916. They reached Los Angeles on September 8.
Why did they go? Two reasons:
- The U.S. was preparing to enter World War I, and they wanted to prove “that women could help in a direct manner by becoming dispatch riders, freeing up men to provide combat support.”
- Having female dispatch riders “would remove one of the primary arguments for denying women the right to vote – women were historically non-participants in war efforts.”
Unfortunately, their successful journey didn’t convince the U.S. military to start using female dispatch riders at that time.
Adeline went on to earn a law degree, and Augusta became a pilot with the Ninety-Nines.
[What’s this road trip all about?]