Remembering the sisters who crossed America by bike in 1916

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In 1916, just before America entered World War One, two sisters set off on a 4,000 mile journey from New York to San Francisco to prove women could make good motorcycle couriers and help in the war effort.

Augusta and Adeline Van Buren, who knew how to box, fly planes and race horses, set off on the journey on a pair of Indian Powerplus’, capable of 60mph with no front brake. Many of the roads were still dirt, some unsigned, and the pair had to battle snow, heavy rain, and running out of water in the desert near Salt Lake. They had to be rescued by miners in Colorado and were arrested several times for wearing men’s clothing.


On a whim they decided to ride up Pikes Peak, and in doing so became the first women to reach the 14,115-foot summit by motorcycle.

Despite the challenges they faced, they rolled into San Francisco on September 8, two months after their journey began. Nobody was there to congratulate them, but undeterred they continued on to Tijuana, before shipping their motorcycles home and returning to New York by train. Despite completing the journey, the army still rejected their applications, due to their gender.

Now, 100 years after the trip, the Sisters’ Centennial Motorcycle Ride, which started yesterday (July 3) aims to pay homage to the sisters by following, as closely as possible, the original journey the sisters took. Proceeds from the ride will be split between two women’s groups – Final Salute Inc. and the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists

Image courtesy of Springfield Museums.


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Liam Marsden

By Liam Marsden

Former MCN Web Producer