Greetings, y’all. You might say I’ve been busy lately – flooded home, reconstruction, dealing with ongoing pain and disability from my catastrophic work accident in 2004 – but I haven’t forgotten this site, or the things I still hope I might accomplish here. Anyhoo…
There’s a fellow who does some really fun stuff with what he calls “Rejected Princesses”: strong, often rebellious and even violent women who violate the gender norms of their day and challenge the male-dominated societies in which they lived; wild women who blaze their own paths and fight their own battles; women that Walt Disney and company would never consider for cutesy movies, clothing lines and toy tie-ins a la Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Pocahontas and Mulan. His name is Jason Porath, he hangs out over at Rejected Princesses, and as a son, brother, husband and erstwhile stepfather to some pretty amazing women, I really, really enjoy his work.
Jason has honored women like baseball pitcher Jackie Mitchell, the seventeen year old woman who, in 1931, struck out New York Yankees hitters Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, back to back, before being pulled from the game, quite possibly for embarrassing the two stars. Then there’s Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the young Russian woman who, in World War Two, energized by the Germans’ destruction of her University, became the deadliest female sniper in history (in a cadre of deadly women snipers that Russia fielded to fend off the Nazis, Lyudmila took out 309 of the bastards) and later became friends with American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Or howzabout Rosalind Franklin, who made the discovery of DNA possible with her pioneering work in X-Ray diffraction (whatever the devil that is!) and was promptly ignored and even posthumously insulted by the pompous asses who claimed the resulting Nobel Prize for themselves.
Jason even delves into ancient history, with women like Hypatia, the first female mathematician in recorded history, and mythology, with women like Iara, the Brazilian warrior woman who was murdered by her own father – tossed in a river to drown – and subsequently turned into a mermaid by sympathetic fish, so she could sing a siren song that drove men mad with desire. The entire site is chock-a-block with stories like these, and pretty cool Disney-styled portraits of the women in question. Jason’s also published a book, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions and Heretics, and is working on a second volume.
So, what does all this have to do with motorcycling?
Not a damned thing, except that, just today, I took a moment to suggest two new heroines for Jason’s files; two women well-known to those of us who read the history of motorcycling. My entry is reproduced below, and if Jason should opt to honor one or more of the women I mention, I’ll be back here ASAP to announce it. Meanwhile, take a stroll over to Rejected Princesses and poke around a bit. As internet time-sucks go, it’s one of the more entertaining and enlightening sites out there.
There are two women who loom large in the world of motorcycling – the world I’ve lived in since I was seven years old (55 years ago) and got my first ride on the back of a neighbor boy’s bike.
The first is Dorothy (Dot) Robinson:
Dot was NOT the first lady of motorcycling, despite the title – by the end of the 20th Century’s first decade women were already making their mark in the world of motorcycling by taking cross-country trips (well before the advent of the Lincoln Highway, Route 66, the Interstate System, or even “luxuries” like motels and motorcycle repair shops every 10th of a mile along the way) and acting as ambassadors for the sport and lifestyle of motorcycling – but Dot DID do a lot to further women’s participation.
The second is Bessie Stringfield:
Bessie was an African-American woman who took numerous solo motorcycle trips across America during the Jim Crow era, when “uppity” blacks were getting lynched and jailed at an appalling rate. She apparently never lost her joyful approach to life and motorcycling.
There are other women, like Effie and Avis Hotchkiss, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren and Della Crewe – some of those early pioneers cited above – who are also worthy of mention, but Bessie and Dot are two of better-known women ‘cyclists.
Anyhoo, I love the work you do. I was one of the folks who pre-ordered the first RP book, and am looking forward to the second. I hope you’ll consider honoring one, both or ALL of these fantastic women. If I may be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Bill J. from Austin