Her Story: Bessie Stringfield

Georgia as Bessie Stringfield

Bessie Stringfield (1911-1993) was a rebel and an adventurer, this motorcycle pioneer became the first African-American woman to ride solo across the United States. 

In 1930, at age 19, legend has it that Bessie began tossing a penny on a map and riding to wherever it landed. Over time she rode through all 48 states. During the 1930s and 1940s, Bessie took eight long-distance solo rides across the united states. This was during a time when women were not even supposed to wear pants, let alone ride a motorcycle. To earn money during her road trips she would perform motorcycle tricks in stunt shows and compete in motorcycle races. 

Bessie Stringfield was treated as a second-class citizen because of her race, this was during the pre-Civil Rights era. The fact that she was a woman was the source of further ridicule, threats, and rejection. This was especially true in the Deep South, where few black people were able to move freely. She was unwelcome at motels because of racism and Jim Crow laws, so she would sleep on her bike at gas stations.

During World War II, Bessie Stringfield worked for the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. She was the only woman in her unit.

In the 1950s, Stringfield made her home in Miami, where she became a registered nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. She became known as “the Motorcycle Queen of Miami.” She owned 27 Harley-Davidsons in her lifetime. 

In 2000, several years after her passing,  the American Motorcycle Association honored Stringfield with an exhibition and created an award in her honor. She was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002. Bessie Stringfield showed great courage in following her dreams, she overcame challenges of race and gender to become the motorcycle riding Queen of the Road.

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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