ADELINE AND AUGUSTA VAN BUREN
Hall of Fame Inductee - 2003
In 1916 two remarkable people determined that they could help the impending war effort by proving that women could be used as dispatch riders, freeing men up for combat. They also felt that this would remove one of the primary arguments for denying women the right to vote - women were historically non-participants in war efforts. To prove this, Adeline, a school teacher, and Augusta, a librarian, rode 5,500 miles, leaving New York on July 4th and arrving in San Francisco on September 2nd.
The Van Buren sisters each chose an Indian Powerplus as their mode of transport. Their journey was difficult at times, however riding on muddy and rutted roads, mechanical difficulties, fatigue and discrimination only served to bolster their reserve. They were the first women to ride up and down Pikes Peak, endured the western desert crossing and were arrested numerous times for wearing men’s clothing. The Van Buren sisters application to the military as dispatch riders was rejected. The coverage in the media of the day lacked the recognition that they earned and rightfully deserved. Articles in the premier motorcycling magazine praised the bikes, but not the sisters. Their historical achievement was described as a vacation rather than the pilgrimage that it was.
Both Augusta and Adeline eventually married and pursued their lives. Adeline earned her law degree from NYU. Augusta became a pilot, flying with a women’s flying group founded by Amelia Earhart called the 99s. Augusta and Adeline Van Buren broke the stereotypes of their time, proving women could do anything. In the words of Augusta, "Women can if she will.”