WTF Fun Fact 13173 – Augusta and Adeline Van Buren

While still in their 20s, sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren were the first women to travel from New York to California on solo motorcycles. (They were the second and third women to drive motorcycles across the continental U.S.)

Who were Augusta and Adeline Van Buren?

Augusta Van Buren was born on March 26, 1884, and her sister Adeline on July 26, 1889. They came from a wealthy New York family and were descendants of U.S. President Martin Van Buren.

They became known for partaking in traditionally male activities, like boxing and motorcycle riding, early in their lives. They were also part of the U.S. Preparedness movement, part of which involved showing that women could help enhance the military’s war effort during WWI.

In 1916, the Van Buren sisters each rode a solo motorcycle 5,500 miles in 60 days across the continental U.S.

According to the Women in Exploration website (cited below): “The Van Buren sisters set out to prove to their country that women were capable of serving in the military as dispatch drivers. They also hoped to remove one of the primary arguments for denying women the right to vote. The Van Buren’s ride was successful, but their applications to be military dispatch riders were rejected. However, both women went on to pursue careers. Adeline achieved a law degree from New York University and Augusta became a pilot and flew in Amelia Earhart’s Ninety-Nines, an international organization dedicated to creating a supportive environment and opportunities for female aviators.

The Van Buren sisters’ adventure

Augusta was 32 at the time of the ride, while Adeline was 26. They rode Indian Powerplus motorcycles, which sold for $275 at the time.

Augusta and Adeline Van Buren’s adventure began in New York City, after which they headed to Springfield, Massachusetts to visit the motorcycle factory. Their journey across the country followed what is now known as Interstate 80.

Poor maps, dangerous weather, and bad roads were all challenges on the cross-country trip, especially once they got west of the Mississippi River.

Once they got outside of Chicago, they were often harassed by law enforcement and locals because it was illegal for women to wear pants in many states. And as you might imagine, they weren’t wearing dresses on those bikes!

Regardless, they made it. On the way, Augusta and Adeline Van Buren because the first women to reach the top of Pike’s Peak on motorized vehicles.

Their journey ended at the U.S.- Mexico border just two months after they started out.

Adeline died at age 59 (in 1949( and Augusta at age 75 (in 1959). In 2002, the sisters were inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Augusta & Adeline Van Buren” — Women in Exploration


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