Did You Know?
Bessie Stringfield was hailed as the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami”, and became the first black woman to ride across the United States solo in 1930.
Remarkably, she accomplished this incredible feat at only 19 years of age – the very same year she began traveling across the United States.
Stringfield was born in Kingston, Jamaica in the year 1911, before migrating to the United States at a young age.
Her father, a black Jamaican man, and her mother, a white Dutch woman both died when she was only 5 years of age. She was later adopted and raised by an Irish woman.
At 16 years of age, Stringfield taught herself to ride her first motorcycle, a 1928 Indian Scout.
She made several long-distance trips in the US, and eventually rode through the 48 lower states, Europe, Brazil and Haiti. During this time, she earned money from performing motorcycle stunts in carnival shows.
However, because of her skin color, Stringfield was often denied accommodation while traveling, so she would sleep on her motorcycle at filling stations. As a woman, she was also refused prizes in flat track races she entered.
She married and divorced six times, however she ended up keeping the last name of her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, since she had made it famous.
Stringfield is credited with breaking down barriers for both women and African-American motorcyclists.
She is now featured in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. The award bestowed by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) for “Superior Achievement by a Female Motorcyclist” is also named in her honour.