‘First Ladies of Motorcycling’ Roar Into Town

By Mark J. Armstrong Kerrville Daily Times, Texas.

Betty Fauls got her first bike when she was 7 years old -- a Cushman scooter with a sidecar specially built for her by her grandfather.

It was her Christmas present that year, and she rode it nearly every day in the trailer park where she grew up.

Since then, the Orlando, Florida, woman has graduated to bigger bikes and today rides a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail.

"I was going to ride here, but she wouldn't let me," Fauls said at Monday's breakfast for the kickoff of the Motor Maids convention at Inn of the Hills in Kerrville.

"Who has to tell their 82-year-old mother she can't ride (from Orlando) to Texas?" her daughter Dottie West joked.

About 300 riders from across the U.S. and Canada are registered for the annual convention gathering in Kerrville this year.

Debbie Voss, the publicity contact for the Motor Maids Texas division, said about 200 of the Motor Maids are expected to participate in the parade.

Only a handful of those attending the convention through Friday aren't here on motorcycles.

That's because only golden life members -- women such as Fauls with more than 50 years in the club -- are allowed to be voting members if they don't ride to the convention.

That's the rule, according to West, who rode here from Colorado, no matter how far they have to come.

"It's one of the most important rules of the organization," West said. "Because it is a riding organization."

Motor Maids was founded in 1940 after a few women who rode got the idea that there might be more like them around the country.

Linda Dugeau of Providence, Rhode Island, conceived the idea in the late 1930s, and when the organization formed, Dot Robinson of Detroit, was appointed the first president.

Robinson rode all over the country looking for other women interested in motorcycles, and she found 51 ladies who became the charter members of the Motor Maids of America.

Fauls, Robinson's daughter, knows all about that history.

It was 1938, two years before the club was formed, when Fauls got her Cushman scooter with the sidecar from Robinson.

Fauls said one of the first lessons she learned was when her mother laid the bike down and made Fauls stand it up herself.

The weight of a motorcycle can make it difficult to pick up after it has fallen on its side. For example, a 1940's Triumph weighed nearly 400 pounds, and standing it back up required good upper body strength.

It was an important lesson since, in the 1940s, if a woman's bike fell, men weren't likely to help her.

"It (riding) wasn't something you should be doing," Fauls said regarding the attitude of most men then.

In the same way Fauls learned to ride from her mother, West said she also learned from Fauls, starting when she was 7 years old in the playground.

Following her mother's footsteps in Motor Maids, West said she grew up surrounded by strong women who happened to love motorcycling.

"The Motor Maids has always been in my life. I was raised in the club," West said. "I have hundreds of mothers."

The Motor Maids convention lasts through Thursday night's banquet with most of the attendees leaving Friday.

Voss said they chose Kerrville because of the many highways in the Hill Country that make for good rides.

Voss said she will lead at least two rides over the next few days, and many of the Motor Maids will head out in small groups to explore the area.

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