Jamaican Bessie Stringfield was the first black woman to complete a solo motorcycle ride across the United States? Bessie Stringfield was born in Kingston in 1911 to a Jamaican father and a Dutch mother. During her early years, the family moved to Boston. When Bessie was five years old, her parents died, and she was then adopted and raised by an Irish woman. She taught herself to ride her first motorcycle ( a 1928 Indian Scout) at the age of 18. At 19 she began traveling across the United States, making numerous long-distance trips and ultimately riding through 48 states, Brazil, Haiti, and Europe. Bessie supported herself by doing motorcycle stunts at carnivals. As a black woman, she was frequently denied accommodation during her travels and slept on her motorcycle at filling stations. Because she was a female, she was also often denied prizes at flat-track races. Bessie was married and divorced six times and lost three children during her first marriage. She became famous using the name of her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, and so retained it for the remainder of her life. Bessie Stringfield was a civilian courier for the U.S. Army during World War I, competing a rigorous training program and riding her own blue 61-cubic-inch Harley-Davidson to carry messages between domestic bases. She worked for the Army for four years, crossing the United States eight times and frequently encountering racism as she traveled. It was reported that a white man deliberately ran her down in a pickup truck in the American South. Stringfield moved to Miami, Florida, in the 1950s, where she was informed by local police that black women were not allowed to ride motorcycles. After several incidents in which she was pulled over, she successfully demonstrated to the police captain that she had the ability to ride a motorcycle and was left alone from then on. She qualified as a nurse and was the founder of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club, performing at motorcycle shows and gaining the attention of the local press. During this time she gained the nickname “The Negro Motorcycle Queen,” which was changed to “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami” over time. The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) paid tribute to Stringfield in 1990 at their inaugural “Heroes of Harley-Davidson” exhibit. During her lifetime, Stringfield owned 27 Harley-Davidsons. Stringfield continued riding until her death at the age of 82 in 1993. In 2000, the AMA established the Bessie Stringfield Memorial Award to recognize outstanding achievements by female motorcyclists. She was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.
Photo Source: AMA Hall of Fame