Firsts of Motorcycling: From Motor Maids to Caramel Curves
Cover photo by Brian Finke for Oprah Magazine.
For many people, there is an awe factor in the “unusual” sight of a woman motorcycling. Some may be concerned for a female biker’s wellbeing or criticize her outright. These judgements play to an underlying belief that a woman by default is not safe or knowledgeable enough to ride on her own. More extreme views maintain that women have no right to the motorcycling community itself. At least, not on her terms. But this is exactly why we build community. Thankfully, female bikers have done just that.
The oldest women’s motorcycling club, The Motor Maids, was founded in 1940 by Linda Dugeau and Dot Robinson. Dugeau envisioned a formal space for women to connect during a time in which actually seeing a female motorcyclist was so uncommon that it took The Motor Maids three years to locate enough women to join. Officially chartered in 1941, the organization’s start coincided with the Second World War. Those who weren't serving entered the workforce. It was temporary, but the demand for American women to hold war-time jobs was substantial. By the end of World War Ⅱ, The Motor Maids had already created a formal all-women's motorcycling club.
Photo by The Motor Maids
The Motor Maids are known to this day for their attire. First formal rules of membership included pink and white outfits with white gloves. By the fourth year of organizing, The Motor Maids transitioned uniform to royal blue and silver with a shield badge. The white gloves are still worn today and a defining feature during parades. The organization is still somewhat old fashioned, but usually is the case for firsts.
The founders are remembered for balancing fashion and skill, being both lady-like and strong. The Motor Maids argued that motorcycling didn't have to conflict with one's identity as a woman. Hap, a Honda dealer who knew founder Dot Robinson says as much:
"I’ll never forget the picture: Dot walking into the bar in a black sheath dress and a pill box hat."
And that brings us to the present day. We're in the 20th century now and being "lady-like" is just not the priority for many women. In a series of unfortunate events, the first all-female black motorcycle club, the Caramel Curves, was founded in New Orleans by Caramel following Hurricane Katrina. Caramel Curves, named after the members curvy figures and caramel complexions, are local legends and have been interviewed by VICE, The New York Times and featured in Death Magick Abundance by Akasha Rabut, among other publications.
Founder Caramel of Caramel Curves © Akasha Rabut
The first thing you notice about a Caramel Curve is her style. From stiletto heels, full face beat and an outfit to match, most people have never seen a motorcyclist look so feminine. At least, not while riding. The bike decals and pink burnout clouds only build on the fact that they are skilled riders. As iconic motorcyclists, entrepreneurs, close friends and philanthropists, Caramel Curves maintain that a woman can do anything a man can do better. This checks out, being that the Caramel Curves greatest competition is themselves. There is simply no other MC quite like them.
Caramel Curves © Akasha Rabut
Women are often denied the grace of automatically being good enough or authentic enough for an industry or hobby. Women of color especially are asked to prove themselves yet are provided less opportunities. Is it due to this that these first female biker groups have such an outstanding element of self-actualization and resilience? I mean, probably, but women are also just that dope. Caramel Curves has truly curated a space within the MOTO community that is radical. They are unique in that they do not consider expectations in the first place. Yes, members may dress like Motorcycle Barbie, but they don’t necessarily accept or reject pre-prescribed femininity. Caramel Curves just enjoy what they enjoy. They are a beaming example of unapologetic femininity.
A woman who is proud creates a meaningful and tangible impact on both a personal level and into the world. Both organizations are adored in their own right and provide for the greater community. Women tend to offer more time and money to philanthropy than men when the resources are available. Empowered women are better for the world at large. Not only do we belong at the table, but when given compromised options, create a whole new level and outperform simply because we can.
Caramel Curves © Akasha Rabut
Having to be the first to do something comes with the pressure of proving the world wrong. It must be hard not to show out with pride and excellence, having known what it's like to not have an inclusive or authentic space. For some Mens Clubs, women club members are considered property, as this real blog post that actually exists defines. When we think of a stereotypical biker, we often picture the self proclaimed outlaws who try to create a community that has its own rules and consequences (or lack thereof). Women and children usually take the brunt of such an above-the-law system. The fact that groups like these, The Motor Maids and Caramel Curves can exist at the same time is not only mind-blowing, but evidence of the tenacity and resilience of women.
The best time for change is when change is happening. In light of America’s recent vice-president elect Kamala Harris, we understand now more than ever that roles which are not initially granted are still rightfully yours to strive for and obtain. To all the pioneering women creating your own space in MOTO, thank you for your service to the growing history of the world.
Any woman with an interest to ride and who owns or whose immediate family members owns a motorcycle can join The Motor Maids today.
Caramel Curves has an open invitation for any person with a vagina and an interest to ride.