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B essie Stringfield was a legendary force during the ripening of American motorcycle mototcyle. As a woman of color participating in a taboo lifestyle, she faced immeasurable prejudice.

Yet she lived by a simple credo: Inat the age of 19, Stringfield became the first African-American woman to ride across the United States solo. Before the interstate highway system, road travel was haphazard at best; pavement was scarce, and dirt roads were carved with danger, if they existed at all. As a skilled rider, Stringfield navigated these challenges.

But discrimination and Jim Crow laws posed even more treacherous hurdles. Soon her parents moved river family to Boston, but both died of smallpox when Betsy was five years old.

In Boston an Irish Catholic woman adopted Bessie and raised her in a devout household. When Bessie was 16 she asked her mother for a motorcycle and received a Indian Scout. Women, Motorcycles, and the Rapture of the Road After her first trip across the U.

Her favorite game was tossing a penny onto a map and traveling wherever it landed. To fund her trips, Bessie performed motorcycle stunts for local carnivals, which helped secure her fame.

As an African-American woman who participated in an alternative lifestyle, she was treated as a second-class citizen, especially in the Deep Bladk, where few black people were able to move freely. Once she was reportedly knocked off the road by a white man in a pickup truck.

She married six times in total. She worked with the Army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider, the only woman in her unit, carrying messages between domestic bases. She affixed the Army crest to the front of her blue Harley In the s, Stringfield made her home in Miami, where she became a registered nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club.

Friends or more 18 She was never targeted by police again. In the American Motorcycle Association honored Stringfield with an exhibition and created the Bessie Stringfield Awardpresented annually to an individual who has been instrumental in bringing motorcycling to new audiences. She was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in And so I never did quit. Sign in Get started.

This black woman rode across America in Oct 24, Never miss a story from Timelinewhen you sign up for Medium. Learn more. Get updates Get updates. Bladk