Wellesley College is consistently ranked the No. 1 college in the country, an all-women's school with powerful graduates like Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps not as well known, but equally influential in the world of two wheels, is Linda Dugeau, Wellesley Class of 1938 and the founder of the Motor Maids. Unlike their West Coast antithesis, the Hells Angels, who are famous for roguish behavior and weather-beaten leather jackets, Motor Maids are required to wear white gloves during their rides and mind their manners, thank you very much.
The organization, one of the nation's longest-standing and most recognized motorcycle "gangs," was formed at the dawn of road travel and, not coincidentally, at a time when women were starting to put on their worker men (er, person) pants in professions from construction to combat. In fact, the organization was formed with a tip of the helmet to The Ninety-Nines, the group of female fighter pilots championed by Amelia Earhart.
The club's handbook states that members must be "of good character"—a stipulation that publicity officer Diane Rumbel says can be subjective.
Each year in July, the women gather in a different location across the country, share stories, and wear the club's silver and blue uniforms for a long, loud group ride. Started with 51 members, the now numbers numbers 1,200, with almost 300 attendees expected to attend this weekend's convention in Bend.
These women don't ride two up, and forget the sidecar. The first rule of the Motor Maids is that each woman must own and operate her own bike.
The second rule is that she must ride it to every convention.
"It's this great excuse to travel and meet awesome ladies that share a passion of motorcycle riding," said Rumbel, who at age 50 will ride her bike cross-country from her home in northeast Pennsylvania to Bend. "We all have different occupations, lifestyles and ages, but we love riding motorcycles."
"It is empowering," said Rumbel. "I love riding with my husband, but riding alone gives you confidence."
Motor Maids is a lifelong venture; after 50 years of participation, women are awarded Golden Member status—and yes, this year there will be a handful of Golden Members at the Bend meetup. Rumbel pointed out 87-year-old Gloria Struck, the "first lady" of the Motor Maids, who started riding motorcycles at the age of 16 and has been a member since the end of WWII. Struck will be making the trek to this year's convention on her 2004 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic all the way from New Jersey, alongside her daughter, a fellow Motor Maids member.
Motor Maids' Parade through Bend