Women Riders

Women in Motorcycle History - Linda DuGeau & Dot Robinson

Written by  April 30, 2009

Linda DuGeau was born May 15, 1913, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As a 19-year-old student at Wellesley, she learned to ride an old Harley-Davidson JD with her then-boyfriend, Bud, whom she would later marry. After graduating, Linda worked in Boston, where she commuted on her motorcycle through the city’s narrow streets.

While it was a little unusual for women to be seen riding in the 1930s, Linda found others in magazines and began corresponding with some of them. One of them, Carol DuPont, told Linda about a group of women flyers who called themselves the Ninety-nine Club. Thinking there should be a similar organization for women riders, DuGeau contacted the AMA, dealers, and other riders, trying to find as many women riders as she could to see if there was any interest in starting a club. Then she found Dot Robinson.

Dot Robinson was a motorcyclist even before she was born on April 12, 1912. Her father James Goulding was a motorcycle racer and sidecar designer. When her mother went into labor with her, her father loaded her into a sidecar for the trip to the hospital. Renowned for his innovative designs, Goulding decided to move his family to America to expand his business, settling in Saginaw Michigan in 1918 and opening up a motorcycle dealership.

Dot met Earl Robinson while in high school. After they married in 1931, both participated in a number of endurance runs and races. After they made a record transcontinental run in 1935, Harley-Davidson approached them about opening a dealership. Soon, the couple moved to Detroit to sell Harleys and did so until 1971.

Linda met Dot in the late 1930s, and the two together embarked on a mission to seek out other female riders. It took three years to locate just 50 other women. In 1940, the Motor Maids motorcycle riding club was founded with 51 charter members. The group became known for their distinctive riding gear that featured white gloves.

DuGeau became an avid tourer, having made a trip of 3,500 miles, which included going to the World’s Fair in New York City, took only two weeks, and cost her only $40. On another solo trip, she toured the wilds of Canada in uninhabited areas. When she moved to California in the 1950s, primarily to be able to ride year round, she became a motorcycle courier and hosted tours of southern California that featured off-road rides through the mountains and the then undeveloped San Fernando Valley.

Dot Robinson’s life with motorcycles was just as busy, albeit in a different way. In 1940, Dot was the first woman to win an AMA championship when she won the sidecar class in the famous Jack Pine National Endurance Championship. She would repeat her accomplishment in 1946. When black leather became associated with outlaw bikers in the 1950s, Dot began wearing her trademark pink outfits. It’s been said that even after a grueling race, Dot would insist on cleaning herself up and coming back out in a dress and hat.

After Dot and Earl sold their Harley dealership in 1971, they continued touring extensively by motorcycle, including a 6,000 mile trek through Australia, where she was born. Dot continued to ride after Earl’s death in 1996, until knee replacement surgery at the age of 85 made it too difficult. She passed away at age 87 in October 1999. Just one year earlier, Dot had been inducted into the AMA’s Hall of Fame.

Linda DuGeau passed away a mere four months later in February 2000, at the age of 86. She was inducted into the AMA’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

Motor Maids is still in existence today with over 1,200 members in the US and Canada. Dot Robinson had served as their president for 25 years, resigning in 1965. For more information, you can visit the Motor Maids site at www.motormaids.org.

By Louise Reeves