Women's History Month Spotlight: Bessie Stringfield - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Women's History Month Spotlight: Bessie Stringfield

(KFVS) -

March is National Women’s History Month, and in the spotlight for March 7, 2016 is Bessie Stringfield (1911-1993), the first African-American woman to ride a motorcycle solo across the United States. In fact, she rode solo cross-country eight different times in the 1930s and 1940s.

Nicknamed “the motorcycle queen of Miami,” and “BB” to her friends Stringfield sat on her first motorcycle at the age of 16.

When she was 19, she started traveling, eventually crisscrossing the U.S., Europe, Brazil and Haiti. During this time, she earned money to live by performing motorcycle stunts in carnival shows.

During World War II she served as one of the few motorcycle for the United States military. Stringfield carried documents between domestic army bases. To qualify as a dispatch rider she completed intense training, learning skills like how to weave rope into a makeshift bridge, and how to use tree limbs to cross swamps.

In the 1950s, Stringfield disguised herself as a man and competed in flat track races, but was always denied the prize money when she took off her helmet and it was revealed she was a woman.

Stringfield was married and divorced six times. She owned 27 Harley Davidson motorcycles throughout her lifetime.

The American Motorcycle Association created the “Bessie Stringfield Memorial Award” in 2002 to recognize outstanding achievement by a female motorcyclist.

Stringfield was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.

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