Memories of Yesteryear

Part 7

A tribute to women on two wheels

After a digression I made recently on the occasion of Valentine's Day, I had planned to come back to talk to you this week about the post 1925 period. In this respect I had already organised a selection of the best period photographs in my collection in order to illustrate this rich slice of motorcycling history.

So that was the plan… picking up where I left off at the end of part 5 entitled 'A flashback in the mid 1920s'.

Well, that's a bust! "You don't always get to do what you intended" as they say.

I was going to miss the International Women's Day

I woke up on 8 March 2021 and the media announced it was International Women's Day.

1905 - An 'Amazon' riding her metal steed
(Move your pointer over her)

The male persona inside me had absolutely no idea there was such a day. If I hadn't heard about it from the TV, I must admit that it would have completely passed me by.

But in an effort to seek forgiveness from the fairer sex surfing this website, I will endeavour to perform an unexpected miracle! I will attempt to celebrate International Women's Day in my own way using a subject that I have had in mind for ages...
women and motorcycles.

Today the unknowns, tomorrow the celebrities

Perhaps you will allow me to share a compilation of fantastic images of the 'sisters' of yesteryear, so we can celebrate this occasion and give credit to the female motorcyclists of yesteryear.

In terms of my tardy realisation of this event, I've compiled this selection very quickly, but rest assured that it's made with lots of love and appreciation for the part played by women in motorcycling history.

I wanted my choice to include not only the most famous female motorcycling heroines, but also photos of total strangers, the illustrious and previously anonymous riders of yesterday.

Latelle, an American stunt rider circa 1920

Chapters are needed for women and motorcycles

The volume of 'women on wheels' images I've chosen is so large that it's impossible to fit them all in in a single chapter. I probably have enough material for a book on the subject, so as I want to share as many documents as possible, I'll add a further chapter in the weeks to come.

In this first chapter we'll discover dusty old images of these unknown ladies of yesteryear, who just like you and me at one point, have ridden a machine, or been a pillion or sidecar passenger.

If you don't mind ladies, let's start this series with one of your sisters: that beautiful passenger from that 1904 Westfield Tricar. With such a fancy hat covering her head and all the essential clothing of the time. Her veil protected her from possible insect impacts while driving. 117 years later this unknown beauty is famous on LPMCC

Beauty and the beast perhaps? The machine is a 1900 Levassor & De Boise

In this 1905 photo, the motorcycle is not stationary on the stand, but in motion. Madame's long dress forces her to ride side saddle

What superb hats again ladies! Without wanting to flatter you, they look so good on you that there's probably no rush to invent the helmet! What do we know about this lady on the left? Not much, except that this unknown American is photographed in 1910 as she poses with a Flying Merkel. Her colleague on the right, also American, is photographed here in 1911 in Seattle on a Reading Standard.

Madame is out in the countryside with Monsieur. A beautiful day in 1911. It's time for a motorcycle ride. She lets herself be transported by Monsieur who has to do all the work

Another country excursion but this time Down Under. Two couples ride around on their respective combos with their vintage wicker sidecars. One of the two husbands immortalises the moment in a photo. As you can see so far, at the very beginning of the last century, the big smile you want nowadays when you have your photo taken, was not yet really de rigueur among our ancestors ...

...except for this very jovial and plump American lady posing in good company, in 1913, in front of two splendid Thor models. Thor produced motorcycle engines for Indian motorcycles and went on to produce its own line of machines in the early 1900s. Sales began to decline in the early 1910s (one of the factors may have been the rise of the Ford Model T). Thor stopped making motorcycle engines in 1916.

In a leafy lane of Shakespeare's country, Madame and probably her husband are riding around in their beautiful combo made by the British manufacturer New Hudson. Founded in 1903 by George Patterson in Birmingham, the first New Hudson motorcycle was produced in 1902 but was unsuccessful. The firm stopped motorcycle production in 1932

Madame is very chic in her summer outfit. White shirt and tie might not be the most appropriate outfit for the dusty roads of the era, but she wears the motorcycle goggles on her hat nonetheless. I like to imagine that this lady is a wealthy American landowner visiting the expanse of her domain riding her superb steel steed made in Milwaukee

This pensive lady doesn't seem to be having an unforgettable day. The photography does not reflect any joy or gaiety. But as everyone knows, life isn't always fun. Fortunately, the Indian motorcycle saves the scene by illuminating the photo with all its splendor

Now let's go for a ride in Germany, where a smiling lady pillion of NSU motorcycle seems on the contrary to spend a pleasant moment in the company of her partner, riding on a path that one imagines meandering into the German countryside

Are these two New Jersey beauties riding an Eagle going to fly away?

Two beauties, one human the other mechanical, photographed circa 1910 in Pennsylvania

Her facial expression reflects pride and confidence. If the machine belongs to her, we imagine that this lady who also seems to belong to high society has above-average financial means to be able to afford to buy a machine so expensive at the time. Unfortunately, I don't know the brand or the model

Tea time in the forest. Madame takes care of the outdoor service

A lady passenger in a sidecar combination which I suppose to be British by the Automobile Association badge seen on the handlebars. This society, dating from 1905, was originally founded to help motorists avoid police speed traps, in response to the Motor Car Act 1903 which introduced new penalties for breaking the speed limit, including the possibility of jail for speeding and other driving offences

Lady on a Rudge Multi in the 1920s

With such a handlebar mounted racing style on this HD of yesteryear, Madame takes the risk of having to complain one day or another of stiffness in the back or worse of lumbago ...

A 'white squaw' and her Indian ...

Let's conclude this episode of today in beauty by this splendid 'Amazon of the desert'

- Jean-Francois Helias

There will be more from Fanfan for this series!