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

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