Adeline and Augusta Van Buren, granddaughters of US President Martin Van Buren, were born into prosperity, ensuring them a comfortable and respectable life as society ladies.
They praised the female warriors who entered the workforce to satisfy World War II’s demands. They, the hardworking and brave Van Buren’s, reveled in a world that was changing to accommodate them.
This is where I begin their story, “they reveled in a world that was changing to accommodate them.”
I am inspired by knowing the women who came before and why I promote their legacies by uncovering their stories. May they inspire you!
Augusta Van Buren was born on 26 Mar 1884 and Adeline Van B uren was born on 26 Jul 1889 in NY, USA. On their own motorcycles, Van Buren sisters cycled 5,500 miles across the continental United States in 60 days, finishing on September 8, 1916. Following Effie Hotchkiss, who had completed a Brooklyn-to-San Francisco trip the year before with her mother, Avis, as a sidecar passenger, they became the second and third women to ride motorbikes across the continent.
Van Buren sisters rode $275 worth of Indian Power Plus motorcycles with Firestone “non-skid” tires and gas lighting to help them through even the darkest nights. They had an unshakable spirit. They had each other without a doubt. They’d need all of their fortitude and resources to complete this difficult undertaking.
“There were no road charts west of the Mississippi,” their great-nephew and historian Robert Van Buren told the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram of the sisters’ amazing journey. “It was basically cattle passes, dirt pathways, wagon trails, and stuff like that.”
The Lincoln Highway was nothing like the paved highways of today. The Van Buren sisters lost track of their objective and fell off their bikes as a result of the heavy rain that wrecked havoc on the roads. “They didn’t have any helmets.” They were only wearing goggles, a leather cap, and leathers. As Van Buren noted, “They were really exposed to the elements.” “It was a difficult time for them.”
Van Buren sisters didn’t just have to contend with bad weather and blurry maps. Police stopped the riders just west of Chicago, not because of their driving, but because of their clothes. Dresses remained the standard, despite the fact that women’s fashion was shifting away from corsets and toward more comfortable clothes.
Women were barred from wearing trousers in a number of states in America. As a result of their military-style leggings and leather riding pants, the Van Buren sisters were repeatedly stopped by bewildered cops. Due to arrests and weather delays, the Van Buren sisters’ one-month journey turned into two.
Unfortunately, the Colorado Rocky mountain’s dirt paths had turned to suckling mud, entangling their tires mercilessly. Exhausted, chilly, and filthy from their unsuccessful attempts to remove their wheels, the disgruntled duo were forced to abandon their bikes and seek help on foot. The sisters emerged from the darkness in Gilman, Colorado, a small mining town, hours and miles later. The sight of two angel-faced ladies clothed in leather and caked in filth astounded the stunned miners. Before assisting the Van Buren sisters in getting their motorcycles back on the road, the miners gave them a spot to rest and eat.
After traveling 5,500 miles, Addie and Gussie Van Buren landed in San Francisco on September 2nd, fatigued but happy, and ended their journey on September 8th in Los Angeles. They continued on till they arrived in Tijuana, Mexico.
Their remarkable expedition generated headlines, but much of the media coverage was unsatisfactory. The big motorcycle journals focused on motorcycles rather than riders. Others penned puff stories on the ladies’ unusual “vacation,” oblivious to the trip’s purpose and historical significance.
Worse, according to The Denver Post, the sisters took advantage of World War I to “show off their feminine charms in stylish khaki and leather costumes.” The most baffling part is that the United States government remained unmoved, rejecting the Van Burens’ “courier dispatch service” request.
After their cross-country excursion, the boundary-breaking sisters pursued other hobbies. Addie graduated from the prestigious New York University School of Law at a time when female lawyers were unusual.
Gussie became a pilot, flying for Amelia Earhart’s Ninety-Nines, an international organization dedicated to providing a welcoming environment and opportunities for female pilots. With her accomplishments, each sister validated Gussie’s renowned dictum,
“A woman can, if she would.”
Click the link above for a fuller story of her carrying the torch of the Van Buren sisters. Below is a quick view.
Vivian Bales was the first motorcycle cover girl and was known for several long distance motorcycle rides around the US, (before most of the roads were paved) in the 1920s and 1930s.
After graduating high school, she worked as a dance instructor, and in 1926 bought her first motorcycle, a new Harley-Davidson Model B, regardless of only being 5′ 2 ” and 95 pounds and unable to kickstart the bike on her own
Having only been riding for 3 years and aged 20 years old, Bales started on 1 June 1929, taking 78 days to cover about 5,000 miles alone from Albany, Georgia to the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee. On the way back, she traveled through Canada, Manhattan, the Carolinas and Washington, D.C. In Washington, Senator William J. Harris arranged for her to meet President Herbert Hoover wearing her trademark all white riding breeches, shirt, helmet, socks and sweater with “The Enthusiast Girl” across its chest.
Her entire story gave girls energetic thoughts to become a racing girl and she also became the first female bike rider.