I have a thing for motorcycles. If nearly all the important people in my life did not exhort me to NOT ride a motorcycle because they "like me alive," I would probably be on one this moment. Preferably looking like the amazing Dot Robinson above!
Dot Robinson is known as the "First Lady of Motorcycling" and was instrumental in the acceptance of women as motorcycle drivers, not just passengers. Born in Australia in 1912, she was influenced by her motorcycle-loving father as she grew up. Her father was a sidecar racer, mechanic and motorcycle designer, and dealership owner. After her family move to the U.S. in 1918, Dot helped her father around the dealership as she grew up. It was here that her love for and skills with motorcycles grew, along with meeting her future husband, a frequent customer named Earl Robinson, while she was in high school.
Earl and Dot married in 1931, bought their father's dealership and moved it to Detroit. Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, 5'2" Dot competed in lots of races, particularly endurance races, on her own motorcycle. Although she encountered stiff resistance at times, she persevered and won several tough endurance runs.
|Dot and Earl|
In a time where it wasn't considered proper for a woman to ride a motorcycle, much less drive one, Dot set out to change the perceptions of women motorcyclists, showing that one can still be an upright lady and drive a motorcycle. She won endurance runs, worked as a motorcycle courier during WWII, and assisted in the creation of the Motor Maids group. The Motor Maids traveled and encouraged women to own and ride their own motorcycles.
One of the things Dot wanted to show America was that one can ride a motorcycle and still be a lady. She made efforts to look nice when she was out, even stopping to clean up and get presentable after races before meeting the other racers at the bar. The Motor Maids site recounts this story:
One favorite story told by "Hap," the Honda dealer in Sarasota, FL, is a story I never tire of hearing. He tells of how he "chased that woman for two days, through mud and trees" and never caught her. At the end of the race, all the guys tramped into the local bar, but not Dot. She went to her room and got cleaned up first. "I'll never forget the picture: Dot walking into the bar in a black sheath dress and a pill box hat." Dot was always a lady.
She was also known for her pink riding outfits. Although opinions vary on why she chose to wear pink instead of the black embraced by most males in the sport, a couple options may be her wish to avoid connotations with black leather-clad motorcycle outlaws shown in movies or to make the sport of motorcycling less intimidating to "civilians." This was a time when very little motorcycle equipment or clothing was made for women, and her styles have set a precedent in women's motorcycle gear that continues today. In her later years she even rode a pink Harley with a built in lipstick holder! How fantastic is that?!
Dot passed away in 1999 at the age of 87.
|Dot on her pink Harley|
Dot Robinson helped break down walls for women while still maintaining her femininity. She didn't become a man to win the approval and acceptance of men. She didn't become a she-woman man-hater or set out to prove that women are better than men. She simply showed society that women can compete with men equally in motorcycling.
A woman can still be a woman and do the daring, the adventurous, and the dangerous with talent and flair.
To learn more:
Dot Robinson: First Lady of Motorcycling
Harley-Davidson: Dorothy "Dot" Robinson
Motor Maids: Dot Robinson
Motorcycle Hall of Fame: Dot Robinson