The story we’re about to share with you takes an in-depth look into the history of Harley Davidson, and what the brand meant to an exceptionally brave woman, as she and her Harley faced historically tough times, and a never-ending series of rough roads. Bessie Stringfield was a driving force in shaping the history of motorcycles – Harley Davidson motorcycles in particular. Back in 1930, when Bessie was just 19 years old, she faced immeasurable backlash for participating in the world of motorcycles – which back then, was considered highly taboo.
Not only was she a woman on a motorcycle back in the day where women weren’t granted the freedom of motion, nonetheless motion on two wheels, she was a woman of color on a motorcycle. At the young age of 19, Bessie was the very first woman of color to ride her motorcycle across the country – solo. Back then, there was no interstate highway system, travel was treacherous, and most roadways in America were plain dirt, not even paved. Those weren’t even the worst challenges Bessie faced on her travels – it was the Jim Crow laws and deafening levels of discrimination she faced along the way that ended up being her largest hurdles.
When Bessie was just 16 years old, she’d asked her mother for a motorcycle, and her mother gifted to her a 1928 Indian Scout. It would be the only motorcycle in her lifetime she owned that was not a Harley Davidson – and Bessie owned 27 Harley Davidson motorcycles throughout her life – citing that to her, “Harley’s were the only motorcycle ever made.”. Her skill with and passion for motorcycles would eventually land her a job with the United Stated Army, as she worked with the Army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. She was the only woman in her unit, carrying messages upon her bike between domestic bases. She affixed the Army crest to the front of her blue 1961 Harley.
Bessie passed away in 1993, at the age of 82. She was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002 – nearly a decade after her death. Check out the rest of her story here, and watch video of her incredible life story below. Tell us in the comments if you think Bessie’s story is inspiring. Do you think the history of Harley Davidson would have been written totally differently without her?
She was just 19 when she crossed America alone on her bike in 1930.
Video Courtesy of Timeline (Facebook)