Women Riders

Women in Motorcycle History: A Pictorial

Written by  January 1, 2015

Beryl Swain was the first solo woman to complete the TT race in 1962, performed on the notorious Isle of Man TT course in an official event, finishing 22nd. This led to the male dominated world of racing to revoke her license due to the perception that motorcycling was too dangerous for women. The ban held until 1978 when Hilary Musson competed.

Marjorie Cottle

Marjorie Cottle (2nd from left) was a leading British sports rider in the 1920’s. Her greatest success was in the “International Six Days Trial” in 1927, when she and her team, the British Ladies Team, won the Silver Vase. Ms. Cottle competed in several more ISDT events throughout Europe until 1939.

Sally Halterman

Sally Halterman was the first woman to receive a motorcycle license in Washington, DC in 1937. Immediately after receiving the license, she was initiated into the Washington DC Motorcycle club, the only girl to have ever received that honor.

Nancy and Betty Debenham

Nancy and Betty Debenham wrote the book, literally, on Motorcycling for Women. It was written in 1928 at a time when motorcycles outnumbered cars, but women made up only about 4% of all riders. The young, attractive twin sisters became poster girls for BSA motorcycles, but looks weren’t all they had to offer. Nancy won a Gold Medal at Brooklands Racetrack in 1926. In their column for one of the many motorcycling magazines of the time, they wrote, “Motor-cycling is an ideal hobby for the tired business girl. She can seek health and pleasure during her precious week-ends by exploring the countryside and the seaside.”