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Effie and Avis Hotchkiss The First Women To Ride a Motorcycle Cross Country in 1915 Harley-Davidson

Effie & Avis Hotchkiss – The First Women To Ride Cross Country

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A little over one hundred years ago, on May 2, 1915 Effie Hotchkiss and her mother Avis left Brooklyn, New York on the adventure of a lifetime. The mother and daughter duo were bound for San Francisco, California on a new 1915 Harley-Davidson V-twin Effie had recently bought. After arriving in the City by the Bay in August, the pair became the first women to ride cross-country on a motorcycle.

Soon afterward, Effie and Avis headed back East and arrived in New York City in October after having covered a grand total of nine thousand miles on the trip. You can learn more about their interesting run at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Cris Sommer Simmons of Hawaii authored The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950, a book that takes a look back at women riders in motorcycling. In 2010, Cris honored Effie Hotchkiss by riding her own 1915 Harley-Davidson V-twin across America in the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball. A photo of Cris on her machine can be seen (below) along with a map of next year’s run. You can also view hundreds more motorcycle-related photos here on The Old Motor.

Take a few moments to learn about the automotive version of the motorcycle cross-country adventure that is going to be combined in 2016 with the motorcycle run at the Race Of The Century. It now has ten pre-1917 cars signed up for the 3400-mile journey from Atlantic City to Dan Diego with the latest entrant being Gil Klecan, who will drive a 1913 Pierce-Arrow in the event.

Effie and Avis Hotchkiss  The First Women To Ride a Motorcycle Cross Country in 1915 Harley-Davidson

  • Effie and Avis in Salt Lake City, Utah (above), in an image courtesy of Effie Hotchkiss Trust. Chris Sommer Simmons (below) riding her 1915 Harley-Davidson on the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball. 

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  •         The route (below) of the 3400-mile motorcycle and automobile 2016 Race Of The Century run.

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10 responses to “Effie & Avis Hotchkiss – The First Women To Ride Cross Country

  1. What brave ladies they were. Tough, too. Anyone who has ridden a more modern bike any kind of long distance on today’s highways may have a better idea of what gumption and strength this takes, but adding the lack of comfort and protection of those old bikes, the conditions of the roads and trials they traversed, the vast empty spaces they crossed just up the amount of awe we should all feel about such pioneers. Finally, what a great mother!

    • Nevermind the comfort level..i would more worried about the cowboys,indians,bandits at that time..bravery is an understatement

  2. And: Emily Post and her son drive cross country in 1916. A good mannered trip with a book all about it. Google “By Motor to the Golden Gate”.

    THANK YOU, David! Good health to you, sir.

  3. The first photo appears to be in front of the store of William and Verity Beecroft in Ossining, New York. Multiple newspaper stories about the trip stated the original California destination was to attend the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

    In the blog “Sweethearts of the West,” Anna Kathryn Lanier stated, “Once on the west coast Effie dipped her toes and tires in the Pacific Ocean. She also ran down her future husband on a San Francisco street when he stepped out in front of her moving motorcycle.” The man she ran down was Guy Johnston who was a farmer from Big Bend, Oregon.

    The House of Hopper photo would have been taken on their return journey from California to New York. Hopper was at 140 E. 3rd S., Salt Lake City, Utah, and was established in 1912 by Norman Chance Hopper (1880 – 1956). Hopper’s business helped arrange a relay of riders through Utah in July 1915. These riders were part of a larger group of motorcyclists that were carrying a message from then President Wilson to the president of the Panama-Pacific Exposition being held in San Francisco, California. Long time transportation enthusiast and publisher Floyd Clymer was also involved in the relay in Nebraska. Hopper also sold bicycles, hunting and camping equipment.

    Hopper owned the business until May 1929 when it was purchased by Arthur Graham Elting (1876 – 1938) and Perry E. Davis. Hopper went on to be involved with the Franklin Auto Sales Company and the Federal Motor Truck Company. After Hopper departed the firm later sold Evinrude boat motors, Schwinn bicycles, Cushman motor scooters, B.S.A. motorcycles, Indian lightweight bicycles, and Taylor tricycles. The business was operational at least through 1976, but the telephone directory listing is missing in 1977 although some ads appeared through March 1977.

  4. These women were preceded in 1913 by Cy Woodman who rode her Flanders 4 motorcycle from NYC to New Mexico before succumbing to appendicitis.

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