There are no pre-defined gender roles for these leather-clad women on wheels.  Not for these Motor Maids.

America’s first all-women motorcycling
club, Motor Maids Inc., was chartered in 1940 by pioneering female motorcyclists Linda Dugeau and Dot
Robinson. Hundreds of the Maids will be in Lewiston in the coming week for the club’s annual national convention.

This sisterhood on wheels is 1,200 members strong, which New England District Director Yolie Donley said she feels “incredibly empowering.”

“It’s a sisterhood with loyalty, camaraderie, honor and a
lot of respect.” A Motor Maid for nine years, Donley is credited by many in the
New England District for getting them involved in the club.

“She had been after me for a few years to join,” says Kerrie
Sullivan of Raymond.  “I ride a lot in other women’s motorcycle
organizations and that’s why I kept saying ‘no’ to her, but Motor Maids is just
fantastic. It’s different from any other group.”

The members of the club range from “Red Ribbons,” the newest
members, to “Golden Life Members,” women who have been a part of the Motor
Maids for 50 or more years, with attendance at 10 or more conventions.

“I am in awe of these women,” said seven-year member Melanie
Jandreau. “You just can’t talk to these (Golden Life) ladies enough. The stories
they have are just amazing and the rich history behind the group makes you feel
like you’re part of something really important.”

Stories about driving across state lines in the early half of
the century, out-maneuvering hazards on unpaved roads with only a suicide shift,
and wrapping themselves in heavy newsprint to block the rain are just some of
the amazing feats that the older riders share with younger generations.

“You meet these women and they are in their 70s, 80s and
90s still riding,” said Charlotte Wilson, co-district director of New England,
“and to listen to the stories and see the historical photographs, it just gives
me chills to be a part of it.”

On July 7-9, the Motor Maids come to Lewiston
for their annual national convention, roaring on two wheels into town by the
hundreds.

Last year’s convention, held in Columbus, Ind., was the
biggest in the group’s history, with 256 Maids and their guests. The 2009
Lewiston convention, to be held at the Ramada Inn, is expected to be just as
large, with 250 already registered and walk-ins expected.

Held at a different location each year, the national
convention brings Motor Maids from all over North America together to discuss
club business, have some fun and reconnect with friends. The club, which spans
the continental USA and Canada, is divided into different regional districts,
each with an appointed district director for point of contact. Maine is part of
the New England district along with New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

“We put a convention on the East Coast, then one on the West
Coast, then one in the center of the USA,” explains Vice President Glennadine
Gouldman. Every three years the group meets in the central U.S. for the election
of officers, giving everyone the opportunity to attend a convention whether they
live in California, Ontario or Maine.

Several members make the trek to convention as often as
possible, no matter the distance. And these women ride. This isn’t a dainty
jaunt for a cup of coffee – they really ride, regularly driving across
the country and into Canada or Mexico.

One group coming in from Montana is
completing the Four Corners Motorcycle Tour of the United States on their way to
convention, touching San Ysidro, Calif., Blaine, Wash., Key West, Fla.,
and Madawaska before arriving in Lewiston.

Although women motorcyclists found themselves bombarded with
prejudice in the earlier years of the sport, current female riders report an
overall acceptance from their male counterparts. According to the Motorcycle
Industry Council, female riders are on a steady rise, increasing from 9.6 percent in 2003 up to 12.3 percent in 2008. Out
of the 25 million Americans who reportedly rode a motorcycle in 2008, 5.7
million, or 23 percent, were female.

Sullivan feels that Motor Maids have helped to prove
that women deserve, and have the right, to be on motorcycles. “I used to get
snide remarks from men, but it just made me want to ride even more. Belonging to
an organization like this gives you security and encouragement, “she says.

The Motor Maids continue to be ambassadors for women in the
world of motorcycling. Hanging up their leathers intermittently, they’ll don the
signature regalia of royal blue, white vest and white gloves while on parade in
Lewiston- Auburn. Look for them on the open road next week in Maine.

Motor Maids

Tuesday, July 7

All-day registration for women who want to join Motor Maids at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston; 7 p.m. social hour at Fast Breaks, 1465 Lisbon St., Lewiston

Wednesday, July 8

8 a.m., Dot Robinson Road Run, a motorcycling skills test at the Ramada Inn, Lewiston

6:30 p.m., Escorted parade will leave the Ramada Inn and continue to Lisbon Street, Court Street, along Center Street, across the Veterans Bridge, and along College Street before returning to the Ramada Inn. Hundreds of motorcyclists are expected to participate, so the driving public is asked to be cautious.



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