Linda Dugeau was a pioneering motorcyclist who founded the Motor Maids, the oldest motorcycling organization for women in North America, in 1940. Dugeau was an avid motorcycle rider most of her adult life. She worked as a motorcycle courier and had a reputation as one of the best female off-road riders in the 1950s.
Dugeau was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts on May 15, 1913. Her boyfriend, Bud, who would later become her husband, taught Dugeau to ride on an old Harley-Davidson JD when she was a 19-year-old Wellesley College student. After graduating from college, Dugeau worked in Boston and commuted daily across town on the narrow downtown Boston streets.
In the 1930s, very few women in America rode motorcycles. Dugeau started corresponding with other female riders she read about in magazines. One fellow rider she keep in touch with was Carol DuPont. DuPont told Dugeau of an organization of female flyers called the Ninety-Nine Club. Dugeau decided there should be a similar club for women riders. She began writing to motorcycle dealerships, AMA clubs and fellow riders to find all the female riders she could to see if there was an interest in forming a women’s motorcycling organization.
In the late 1930s, Dugeau met Dot Robinson, a well-known competition rider from Michigan. Together, the two embarked on an extensive search. It took three years to locate 50 female riders so they could form the Motor Maids. The Motor Maids were founded in 1940 with 51 charter members. The following year, the club received its charter from the AMA. Robinson served as the organization’s first president and Dugeau the secretary.
The Motor Maids was created to unite women riders in promoting interest in motorcycling. The new organization grew rapidly and became highly visible when club members were asked to parade at various AMA national races in the 1940s. The Motor Maids became known for their distinctive riding uniforms that always featured white gloves.
Dugeau became an avid touring rider. One summer she took a trip that covered 3,500 miles in two weeks. During the trip she visited the Harley-Davidson factory and was a guest of Bill Davidson, visited her mother in Michigan and rode to the World’s Fair in New York City with members of the Empire Motorcycle Club, all for under $40. On another solo trip she toured the wilds of Canada on nearly impassable roads in uninhabited areas.
In the 1950s, Dugeau moved to the Los Angles area, primarily so she could ride year round. She became a motorcycle courier and often hosted tours of Southern California that featured off-road riding in the mountains and the then-undeveloped San Fernando Valley.
Dugeau died on February 17, 2000. She was 86. She will always be remembered as a pioneer in motorcycling in America. Her legacy was living a life that showed that motorcycling was for women as well as men.