Women Behind Bars History of Women in Motorcycling (part 2)

Women Behind Bars
By Debbie Matthews and Heather Majcherek
November 17, 2008

<<< Click to Return to Part 1

Part 2

With all this bliss you would think the road has been easy, but sadly no. It has been a road cut by machetes, in the heat of the day, surrounded by opposition seemingly on every side and even by those who have sometimes professed to be our friends and allies. So why? Why has the road been so harsh and unforgiving? Do we not all share the same passion for riding? Do we not take all of the same risks? Do we not share the same trails and roads? Why has the camaraderie so prevalent in the sport been grudgingly earned rather than shared freely?

Most of the answer on the surface lies in our upbringing. Since our earliest childhood memories, distinctions have been made about what activities ladies should engage in, and what activities are considered more masculine. Even though women on Motorcycles have been around since the beginning roots of motorcycling, there has always been an underlying current that somehow we don’t belong out there… we are too weak, we may injure ourselves, hey why aren’t you in the kitchen where you belong.

Ed Youngblood, Former President of the AMA said it this way in his welcome article for the first Women In Motorcycling Conference held in 1997; “This gender that seems so effective at elevating motorcycling is often devalued by its own community. Examples of women who had to struggle to be treated equally by other motorcyclists appear throughout our history. As early as 1907, Clara Wagner, who won a major endurance event, was denied her trophy and official recognition by the race’s sanctioning body, solely because she was a woman-and women, presumably, were not supposed to perform such feats of skill, strength and stamina. Dot Robinson and others had to struggle to be treated as equals within male dominated motorcycle competition. And when Kitty Budris wanted to become the first professional racing team owner and mechanic in 1969, and Kerry Kleid wanted to become a licensed professional racer in 1971, both had to take legal action to receive their necessary accreditation from the AMA.”

While riders do exist of all genders, and preferences these stereotypes are wrong and have been since the beginning. While they are slowly decreasing with time, they never the less still exist in many circles of motorcycling even after 40 years. These antidotes never really sat well with me. I was told at my first race in 1974, by a male racer I was racing against, “This is our sport, why don’t you go home and bake something.” Well, I guess he thought I would run away crying. Instead I grit my teeth, rode to the line and made it my mission to beat that “gentleman”, which I did. Thanks to the enlightened upbringing of my parents who both raced cars and later bought bikes so we could all ride together as a family; No one was ever going to tell me what I could and could not do. It is a promise and a winning attitude I have kept throughout my life and instilled in my children.

My first born in the early 80’s, was fittingly a girl, who followed in mommy’s footsteps… She loves riding and racing and started riding by age 2 with supervision, became the youngest woman to win women’s national Motocross trophy at age 4, and the youngest rider in the sport (male or female) to garner corporate sponsorship at age 8. She also went on to win a Women’s National and World Cup title as a mini rider. She the President of WMN Racing.com also happens to be the co-author of this series of articles. She is another female born to ride, but not without opposition, despite the efforts of our lady pioneers. She is still in some ways as are many, a woman behind bars…. We now have a fourth generation rider in my grand daughter, who already at two is showing serious signs of the motorcycle lust that runs through the veins of the women in our family, executing lazyboys and stoppies, and after crashing getting up and yelling aloud, AGAIN!. An X-Games baby….

As this series progresses we will take you on a ride through history, where you will see motorcycling through the eyes of the women who have lived it and those like Heather who are currently enjoying it’s popularity. You will meet some of the pioneers, gain insight and maybe a little respect for those ladies who have blazed the trail for your wives, daughters, girlfriends and mothers to have the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of motorcycling with you. The women of our sport have braved every trail, climbed every hill, embraced and competed successfully in every aspect of our sport, proven themselves capable and responsible riders, and done it all while still being able go home and bake something! Yum!

<<< Click to Return to Part 1

For Photos go to: http://www.dmsports-wsmx.com/historical.htm or http://www.Wmnracing.com/photos
I also have access to some historical photos from the early days, but I will need to scan them.

Article and photos supplied by: Debbie Matthews-26001 Corriente Ln, Mission Viejo, Ca 92691
949-837-3374, email: deb@dmsports-wsmx.com

Women Behind Bars History of Women in Motorcycling

Women Behind Bars
By Debbie Matthews and Heather Majcherek

Hello, my name is Heather Majcherek, and I am a motocross racer! Are you starting to hear this more or, see this more? Why? What has caused this? Are you asking yourself why are women invading this sport, when they have other sports that embrace them?

Women In Motorcycling

What if I told you women in motorcycling have been around for over 100 years? While you swallow hard and drop your fork, Let me introduce you to my mother, Debbie Matthews, a Motocross Pioneer, as she shares some examples and highlights of Women in Motorcycling that may surprise you.

  • 1907 Clara Wagner wins Endurance event against male competition and then is stripped of title
  • 1916 Van Buren sisters Take Adeline and Agusta Van Buren complete Transcontinental ride to prove women have the skills necessary to be motorcycle dispatcher’s during World War I
  • 1937 Dot Robinson finishes second in class at the Jack Pine 500 mile Enduro. In 1940 she won and AMA secretary E.C. Smith tried to ban women from competition
  • 1940 Motor Maids established, Dot Robinson, Linda Allen Dugeau and Vera Griffin are it’s first officers
  • 1941 World War II Bessie Stringfield a Black woman rode a Harley for the US Army as a dispatch. She was the only woman in the unit
  • 1960 Mary McGee becomes first woman to Road Race
  • 1968 Twenty women race the famous “Hopetown Grand Prix” off road event
  • 1969 Kitty Budris becomes the First female Professional Team Owner and Professional Mechanic Her original license was denied because she was female
  • 1971 Kerry Kleid First female licensed in AMA s Professional Motocross license stripped when she was discovered female
  • 1971 Lynn Wilson and Mary McGee compete and finish in the Baja 500
  • 1973 Dee Granger gets AMA approval for a Women’s Powder Puff Class in AMA District 37 racing
  • 1974 Kasey Rogers created first Women’s Powder Puff National Championships
  • 1975 Women’s Supercross Exhibition at Los Angeles Coliseum Sue Fish Champion
  • 1977 Carter Alsop First woman to earn an AMA professional license in Road Racing
  • 1978 Sue Fish Earned a AMA men’s pro license and campaigned several of the AMA Nationals, running inside the top 20, but suffered continual mechanicals which cost her in the final results
  • 1978 Debbie Evans First woman to hold expert classification in Trials. Chosen to represent the USA at the Scottish 6 Day trials where she placed second in her class
  • 1978 Marsha Holley Sets Bonneville Land Speed Record at 229.61 mph First Woman to break into Bonneville Elite 200 mph Club
  • 1980 ABC Wide World Of Sports provided coverage of Women’s Motocross National Championships
  • 1981 Women Supercross Exhibition: Los Angeles Coliseum
  • 1983 Women Supercross Exhibitions: Anaheim, San Diego
  • 1983 AMA Loretta Lynn Amateur National offers first Women’s class
  • 1983 Dorene Payne First Woman to race in AMA Supercross with the Men
  • 1983 Tami Kirk on a XR 750 Dirt tracker became the first woman to qualify and race in an AMA Grand National Final. Two weeks later she became the first woman to earn points in a final held at the Syracuse Mile in New York State.
  • 1984 Women Supercross Exhibitions at San Diego, Anaheim, Tokyo Japan
  • 1988 Fran Crane set Guinness World Record NY to SF in 24 hrs, 20 minutes
  • 1990 Heather Matthews at age 8 Sets record as the youngest rider male or female to have an outside of the industry corporate sponsor Natures Recipe Pet Foods.
  • 1994 US Women’s MX Team Founded: By Kat Spann and Elaine Ruff. Consisting of riders Nadine Holbert, Dee Wood, Kristy Shealy, Tami Rice. Debbie Matthews joins entity staff mid year and creates first TEAM National, World Cup and Free Women’s MX School
  • 1995 WML Women’s MX League: Formed by Elaine Ruff, Debbie Matthews, Jim Trimble.
  • 1995 First AMA Women’s Supercross Series is organized in conjunction with MTEG by WML Director Debbie Matthews. Champion: Shelly Kann
  • 1996 AMA/WML Women’s Outdoor National Championship Series created, managed by WML Director: Debbie Matthews
  • 1996 AMA recognizes Women’s Motocross National Champion Shelly Kann at AMA Professional Awards Banquet. It is the first time in history a Women’s MX Champion is recognized by the AMA.
  • 1997 First AMA Women In Motorcycling Conference held. Matthews and Ruff not only are instrumental in the process but are keynote speakers for the event
  • 1997 WML Director Debbie Matthews meets with AMA Board of Directors and petitions for and receives a unanimous vote granting women “A” rider status for the first time in history, opening door to be recognized as professional riders in Motocross competition
  • 1999 Nikki Harris and Tonya Stachwell become first women to race for a men’s SX Satellite Team Honda of Houston
  • 2000 Debbie Matthews founded Women’s School of Motocross specializing in the training of Women riders and competitors
  • 2001 Heidi Henry First Woman to compete in Freestyle
  • 2008 Miss Supercross and Miss Arenacross are women racers
  • 2008 Ashley Fioleck, profoundly deaf since birth claims the AMA/WMA National MX Championship Title in her Rookie Season and graces the cover of Transworld MX Magazine.
  • 2008 Women’s Motocross debut at X games. Gold Tarah Geiger, Silver Sherrie Cruise, Bronze Tatum Sik

The point of this series of articles is not about bragging rights, or to belly up to the bar and demand respect, it is to take you on a journey into the heart, mind and soul of the women rider. Women in motorcycling has never really been about equal rights as some believe, but rather about equal opportunity to enjoy a sport that offers so much to the individual rider, the friends and family they participate with on the trail, track or on the road.

This concludes part 1 of this fascinating story. To continue to part 2 of the story please click here >>> Women Behind Bars The History of Women In Motocross Part 2.

For Photos go to: http://www.dmsports wsmx.com/historical.htm or http://www.Wmnracing.com/photos
I also have access to some historical photos from the early days, but I will need to scan them.

Article and photos supplied by: Debbie Matthews 26001 Corriente Ln, Mission Viejo, Ca 92691
949 837 3374, email: deb@dmsports wsmx.com

History of Womens Motocross

Extreme sports and women do not historically go in the same sentence, but lately women are closing the gender gap when it comes to these sports—especially in the case of women’s motocross.

This motorcycle sport has grown by three hundred percent over the past ten years. Forty percent of that growth can be contributed to women. Because women are quickly gravitating towards motocross racing, competition classes, events, gear and products are all being targeted specifically towards women’s motocross.

Motocross: A Long History

WMX racer Kristine Wright charges uphillWomen’s Motocross goes as far back as 1906 from motorcycle trials competitions that took place in the United Kingdom.

These competitions were later referred to as scrambles as the goal changed to be the fastest rider and win the race. As these scrambles started becoming more popular, the term “motocross” became synonymous with the sport. It was a clever combination of the French word for motorcycle (motocyclette, moto for short) with cross country.

The first scramble race was held in 1924 and the sport really started to take off in 1930s Britain, where racing teams began to organize. Due to the rough terrain that these races were held on, the bikes themselves started to transform and improve so they would be better at navigating the rough roads. The motorcycles continued to see upgrades and modifications as more riders were entering the sport.

In 1966, motocross had crossed the pond, into the United States, where it saw tremendous growth at a speedy rate. The first motocross event in a stadium took place in 1972 in Los Angeles.

Women’s Motocross: Where It All Started

Women began entering onto the modern motocross scene in 1974 with a National Championship. This was the first time a woman was eligible to win a national title. Nancy Payne was the first to claim it. The race was later renamed to Women’s Motocross Nationals to give it more legitimacy and sound more professional.

Through the years, the Women’s Motocross Nationals has operated under several different names like the International Women’s MX Association (IWMA), Women’s Motorsport Association (WMSA) and U.S. Women’s Motorcycle League (WML).

In 1996, a series of women motocross races devoted to women riders, as opposed to single events, began through the WML. In 2004, the Women’s Motocross Association (WMA) was established only to be renamed in 2009 to the Women’s Motocross (WMX) Championship when MX Sports took over the brand. Miki Keller played a huge roll in progressing the WMA which became the WMX series.

Women are now part of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship races using the same rules, practice, and tracks as the men. This legitimized women in the sport of motocross and saw an explosion of growth and acceptance, which now includes sponsorships and big payouts for winning titles.

Women and Motocross Today

wmx racing battle in cornerEven with the acceptance of women’s motocross, these ladies are still competing for equal sponsorship, equal pay and equal exposure. The sisterhood of motocross racers is strong and these women are as committed to each other as they are to the sport. Through sponsors, conferences, autograph signings and photo ops, the women of motocross are certainly entering an arena where once only men participated and got media exposure.

Through the popularity of women in motocross, the marketing of motocross gear tailored specifically for women, like pants, boots, helmets and apparel has exploded. Among the typical black, blue and green apparel there is now pink, purple and aqua. Women riders are forming their own local groups, like WMN Racing, and organizing their own events and conferences in hopes that they will further their cause, in getting more widely recognized.

Today’s famous women’s motocross riders include Steffi Laier from Germany and Katherine Prumm from New Zealand. From the United States there is Ashley Fiolek, Jessica Patterson, Tara Geiger, Jacqueline Strong, Heather Lockwood, Alexah Pearson, and many others. There were well over 50 WMX racers registered to compete in the 2012 racing season. The 2012 WMX season long points battle came down to the last moto of the last race of the year before it was decided with Ashley Fiolek getting the number one plate when Jessica Patterson was injured and could not contest the final moto. These two ladies have kept the number 1 trophy between the 2 of them for the past several years and they always seem to have some great battles on the track.

Women and Other Motorcycle Events

In addition to motocross women have participated in many other motorcycle based events such as pioneers Lynn Wilson and Mary McGee who finished the Baja 500 in the late 1960s. Later on, McGee paired up with Cherry Stockton to finish in Las Vegas’ Mint 400.

After them, some women went the daredevil route like Teri Kezar and Debbie “Flying Angel” Lawler, who jumped over cars and through rings of fire with their motorcycles. But it was not as popular until Marcia Holley set a land speed record for riding a single-engine streamliner motorcycle, and became the first woman to get into Bonneville’s 200 miles per hour club.

Across the ocean, when the Powder Puff National Championship was being held in 1974 in the United States, three hundred women’s motocross pros were competing. Nancy Payne took home the title and was also one of the first women from the United States to race women’s motocross in Europe.

The history of women competing in motorcycle events is still being written and each season brings new competitors, new teams and more excitement and fun for all.

If you would like to contribute stories or comments about the history of women in motorcycle sports, please post your comments or contact us if you want to share an article and we will be happy to post your story for others to enjoy here on this site.