Bessie Stringfield was born in North Carolina in 1911 and grew up around Edenton. From an early age, Stringfield knew that she wanted more than the usual expectation of marriage and domestic life. She wanted adventure.
By the time she reached high school age, she already knew that she wanted to be a motorcyclist. Her first bike was a 1928 Indian Scout. However, after this bike, she rode only Harleys for the rest of her life – owning 27 over her lifetime.
At age 19, Stringfield, determined to take her bike as far as it would let her, would throw a penny onto a map to determine where she should travel to next. She quickly covered impressive distances – riding through all 48 contiguous states in her lifetime.
By the 1930s, Stringfield was an impressive and fearless rider – making eight solo trips across the country in the years leading up to World War II. As a black woman, these trips were often extremely dangerous for Stringfield. Traveling through the deep South, she was often met with bigotry and violence, being denied lodging and even being run off the road. Yet still, she persisted. Devoutly religious, Stringfield cited her faith for keeping her courageous and resolute during those times.
During World War II, Stringfield proved a valuable civilian asset, as she rode her motorcycle to share messages between army bases. After the war, Stringfield moved toMiami, Florida. There, she continued to be an avid biker while also becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse. She founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club and competed in races. Once, she impersonated a man to compete in a race. But, when she won, she was denied the prize winnings when she removed her helmet and was recognized as a woman. Her skillful riding soon earned her the title of Motorcycle Queen of Miami.
Stringfield passed away in 1993. She was posthumously inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2002.