90 Years Ago, Mother and Daughter saddled up
She was a gal who lived and dreamed ahead of the times. Effie Hotchkiss (1889 - 1966), then an adventuresome 20 year old, would daydream at her bank clerk job in the prestigious Wall Street area of New York City about what it would be like to take to the open road on a motorcycle.
It was 1915: Ford rolled its one-millionth automobile off the Michigan assembly line, Babe Ruth smashed his first career home run on May 6th, and on January 12th, the United States House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote.
Bucking convention with her wild horse spirit, Effie voted to cruise cross-country on an iron horse. She loved motorcycles, and after receiving a small inheritance from the sale of a family farm, bought a 1915 three-speed V-Twin Harley-Davidson and decided to set her sights on the west coast. She would ride her Harley from Brooklyn to California to attend to the San Francisco Worlds Fair.
But Avis Hotchkiss, Effies open-minded mother, refused to allow her daughter to embark upon this trip alone. But, instead of forbidding her daughter to make the trip, she joined her. A sidecar to accommodate Avis robust figure became a necessity, and she was nestled in for the long haul.
The duos journey was filled with adventure they could not have imagined. Paved roads were a luxury, and therefore they had to pioneer that faithful Harley-Davidson with a sidecar rig through some highly questionable and dangerous territory. On-site repairs were made, and that machine was surely pushed beyond the limits of what the factory could have imagined.
In 1915, there were still cowboys and Indians, and, certainly, no matter the environment, a female traveling alone would make newspaper headlines. And, Effie and Avis certainly did become the subject of many a town and country folk conversation.
It took them two months to make their excursion riding that two-wheeled freedom machine. Upon reaching San Francisco, Effie made it a point to get her splash of Pacific Coast ocean so that she experienced the waters of both coasts, and, in a sense, lived up to altering the tides of the times. It was in San Francisco that Effie would meet her future husband, whom she ran over in the street when he crossed in front of her motorcycle.
Effie not only pioneered the concept of cross-country travel on a motorcycle for women and men, but she also was an example of the notion we all think about: Anything is possible if you put your mind to it! Her journal, Wheels in My Head, which has yet to be published, reveals her mindset with humor and her forward thinking resolution about life.
To Effie Hotchkiss, there were no hard and fast rules about how life ought to be lived, particularly according to how social circles of the day dictated the mannerisms of a well-conducted lifestyle. The motorcycle was the perfect invincible companion to match the tenacity and free spirit of Effie and Avis Hotchkiss.
READ THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON WEBSITE PAGE ABOUT THE LADIES. Also, forthcoming article by Sasha in the July 2005 Harley Owners Group member publication: HOG TALES.