Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Metro history: When the Motor Maids rode to D.C.

January 12, 2012 - 10:22 AM
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But where are their bikes? (Photo: Courtesy of American Motorcyclist)

Motorcycles, let it be known, are not for men alone.

Enter the Motor Maids, a band of female motorcyclists that formed more than 70 years ago. They defied the gender expectations of motorcycles, which in the years after the group's formation became associated with rougher men like the Hell's Angels of California. But women wanted to ride and made themselves known, gender gap be damned. The 72-year-old club is still alive and well today in 2012 with about 12,000, and you can visit its website here. But for the group's 20th anniversary, the Motor Maids decided to convene in America's capital of Washington, D.C.

The Motor Maids describe their early history as follows:

In the late 30’s, a young woman motorcycle enthusiast named Linda Dugeau of Providence , Rhode Island , conceived the idea that there might be a number of women who owned their own motorcycles and might be interested in becoming acquainted with one another. Linda wrote to dealers, riders and anyone she thought might know of women motorcycle riders. After this extensive search, she compiled a list from which the Motor Maid organization was founded with 51 Charter members in 1940. The American Motorcycle Association Charter #509 was issued to the club in 1941. Dot Robinson of Detroit, Michigan, was appointed the first President.

The Motor Maids continued to grow, and by 1960, Dot Robinson brought her riders to Washington, D.C. for the 20th convention, a visit recounted in August 1960 issue of American Motorcyclist.

The gathering, fittingly enough, occurred just after the Fourth of July. About 100 of the so-called Motor Maids were present, according to the magazine, and traveled in both Baltimore to Maryland and saw many sights and enjoyed a luncheon described as "delicious." And don't imagine for a second these women weren't fancy enough for our capital — the magazine notes they wore either their "official club attire or their newly acquired Motor Maid dresses."

 "Motor Maids," the official website today notes, "may only attend convention on a motorcycle."

The article describes in feature-level detail the adventures that these lady bikers experienced a half century ago. Apparently, for instance, the women went on a time run near a D.C. metro area lake and "many of the girls got lost [but] all agreed it was a lot of fun." Their big banquet was held at D.C.'s Burlington Hotel. Harley Davidson treated them to breakfast. Dot Robinson, long-time president of the Motor Maids and not to retire for another half decade, changed her motorcycle color from pink to green at this convention. One Motor Maid also discovered the world of taxicabs. She and a fellow rider left their hotel once and got completely lost when wandering the District. "Finally figured out a way to get back," she wrote. "Hail a taxicab, give him the address, and follow him there — it costs though."

Read the 1960 American Motorcyclist piece here and read more pieces of Metro history here.

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