Van Buren Augusta & Adeline (w2733)
Adeline and Augusta Van Buren first women to ride across the USA by motorcycle (Wikipedia)

Van Buren Augusta & Adeline (w2733)

  • Alias-Pseudonimo-Pseudonyme: Van Buren sisters
  • Nationality-Nazionalità-Nationalité: USA
  • Birth/death-Nascita/morte-Naissance/mort: -
  • Means of transport-Mezzo di trasporto-Moyen de transport: Motorbike, Motocicletta, Moto
  • Geographical description-Riferimento geografico-Référence géographique: USA
  • Internet: Visit Website
  • Wikidata: Visit Website

The sisters descended from Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the United States. In 1916, 24-year-old Augusta and 22-year-old Adeline Van Buren, or Gussie and Addie as they were known, were in their 20s and active in the national Preparedness Movement. America was about to enter World War I, and the sisters wanted to prove that women could ride as well as men and would be able to serve as military dispatch riders, freeing up men for other tasks.

They also hoped to remove one of the primary arguments for denying women the right to vote. For their ride, they dressed in military-style leggings and leather riding breeches, a taboo at that time.
They set out from Sheepshead Bay racetrack in Brooklyn, New York on July 4, riding 1,000 cc Indian Power Plus motorcycles equipped with gas headlights. Indians were the high-end motorcycle at the time, selling for $275, and ran Firestone "non-skid" tires.
They arrived in Los Angeles on September 8 after having to contend with poor roads, heavy rains and mud, natural barriers like the Rocky Mountains, and social barriers such as the local police who took offence at their choice of men's clothing. During the ride, they were arrested numerous times, not for speeding but for wearing men's clothes. In Colorado, they became the first women to reach the 14,109-foot summit of Pikes Peak by any motor vehicle. Later on, they became lost in the desert 100 miles west of Salt Lake City and were saved by a prospector after their water ran out. They completed their ride by traveling across the border to Tijuana in Mexico.
"Beyond question the Van Burens have made one of the most noteworthy trips ever accomplished, chiefly because they have proven that the motorcycle is a universal vehicle." —Paul Derkum, Indian Motorcycle Company
Despite succeeding in their trek, the sisters' applications to be military dispatch riders were rejected. Reports in the leading motorcycling magazine of the day praised the bike but not the sisters and described the journey as a "vacation".  One newspaper published a degrading article accusing the sisters of using the national preparedness issue as an excellent excuse to escape their roles as housewives and "display their feminine counters in nifty khaki and leather uniforms".