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

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

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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

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