Meet Effie & Avis Hotchkiss, the First Female Transcontinental Motorcyclists HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL OUR MEMBERS, READERS & SUPPORTERS!
This week the League of Women Voters of Napa County is featuring Effie and Avis Hotchkiss, who in 1915 drove across the country and back on a motorcycle with an attached sidecar. They were the first women to make such a trip. Olivia Brion’s 2019 Les Vagabondes Tempranillo is an homage to this daughter and mother, who braved rutty dirt roads and narrow mountain trails; survived extreme heat and cold, rain and floods; and dispatched rattlesnakes and scared coyotes with a pistol on their way to see the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. The Tempranillo is one of four Olivia Brion wines being offered through the League’s Give!Guide campaign. Everyone who donates to the League through the end of December will be entered into a drawing for this four-pack of wines. Click here to donate or here to fill out a form and send a check. Growing up in Brooklyn, Effie’s brother taught her how to ride a motorcycle when she was 16 years old, and she was hooked. She bought her own motorcycle, learned how to repair it, and dreamed of becoming the first woman to cross the United States on a motorcycle. At age 20, she was a bored bank clerk working on Wall Street; however, everything changed when her father died, leaving her a small inheritance. Effie bought the latest-model, three-gear Harley-Davidson motorcycle and when her mother, Avis, asked to go along, she bought the largest sidecar to be found on the market (dubbed “the bathtub”) to suit her rotund companion. The pair left Brooklyn in May 1915 and arrived in San Francisco three months later. Avis was quoted as saying, “I do not fear breakdowns for Effie, being a most careful driver, is a good mechanic and does her own repairing with her own tools.” Right she was. For example, due to the horrendous road conditions of the time, when Effie ran out of innertube spares, she temporarily cut down a blanket and stuffed it into the tire! An iconic image of them on a foggy San Francisco beach shows Effie pouring Atlantic seawater into the Pacific Ocean. While in the City, Effie met her future husband when she ran over him as he stepped in front of her motorcycle. On returning home in October, Effie reported driving about 9,000 miles and said she hadn’t intended on making news; she just “wanted to see America.”