European Motorcycles

Women in Motorcycling

Fast Women: Famous Motorcycle Riders and Notable Managers

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No Glass Ceiling at Brooklands in 1933

Florence Blenkiron, left, and Theresa Wallach on the BSA. Florence was the first woman to achieve 100mph at Brooklands, in 1933 when this photo is was made. Theresa also broke that barrier riding a Grindlay-Peerless.

A third woman also did the ton at Brooklands, the redoubtable Beatrice Shilling. She had an uncommon number of letters after her name which, had she been other than a woman, would likely have been preceded by Sir.

The following year Florence and Theresa embarked on a quite extraordinary journey from London to Capetown piloting a Panther with with sidecar and trailer.

Tilly Shilling on her 30M Manx Norton

Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling was an accomplished rider who fettled her own machines and is best remembered in the motorcycle world as one of only three women to achieve the magic ton at Brooklands.

An aeronautical engineer, she also has a place in aviation history as the inventor of a device which saved many lives. Fitted to Spitfires and Hurricanes, the invention prevented the severe flooding to which Merlin engines were prone during negative G manoeuvres, making the smiting of the nimble Messerschmitt problematical during the Battle of Britain. Officially named the R.A.E. restrictor, her solution was celebrated by the RAF lads as Tilly's Orifice.

Beryl Swain

Beryl Swain was the first woman to compete in a solo Isle of Man TT race, on a 50cc Itom in 1962. She was a talented and intelligent rider.
Beryl Swain

Ida Orsi of Maserati

Obviously a woman of some nous, Ida purchased the well-established Italmoto concern and rebranded their existing models as Maserati. Italmoto had a good sales network, with avenues into markets in Europe, North America and South Africa.... Ida Orsi of Maserati

Marjorie Cottle


Gabriella Morini

When Alfonso Morini died in 1969 the reins of company were taken by his daughter Gabriella. Her tenure was beset by problems with unions in the latter years, beginning in 1983 with strikes which added to the already difficult financial situation.

Gianni Marchetti, General Manager of Morini for four decades, said of her during an interview published in Motociclismo Epoca in 1996, "Gabriella, a lawyer. Married to a physician, owner of a clinic, she had no children. Devoted to her father, she really took to her heart the future of the business. No other woman would have had the courage to devote herself to the Firm like she did. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, Morini had become a hotbed of Trade Unionists."

In 1987 she sold the company to the Castiglioni brothers, owners of Ducati. Gabriella Morini had hoped to see the marque revived by Castiglioni, using the new Lambertini-designed 60-degree V-Twin, but despite their initial enthusiasm... Moto Morini

Vittorina Sambri of Moto Borgo

Vittorina Sambri raced Motoborgo machines from 1914 until at least 1922 when she won a round of the 500cc Italian Championship. In the 1950s she ran a Moto Guzzi dealership in Ferrara with her brother Romeo, also a champion rider. Moto Borgo

Agnes Muriel Hind

Possibly the first female motorcyclist and famed for devouring her male competitors.

More: /articles/muriel-hind.htm Muriel Hind

Vittorina Massano

Born in Genoa in 1934, Vittorina Massano, known as fornarina da corsa from her work delivering for her family bakery, began racing at the age of 16 in hill climbs and soon achieved fame winning many races including three wins in the Pontedecimo-Giovi. She competed against the likes of Angelo Tenconi and Giacomo Agostini, and against her husband, also a racer. She was also an ISDT competitor.

The talented rider is featured as the lead story in MotoCiclismo d'Epoca of November 2007.

Massano died in 2011.

Gwenda Stewart

  • "... she became exceedingly well-known and famous as Mrs Gwenda Stewart, wife of Col R N Stewart, with her record-breaking and racing achievements..."
    >Trump Motorcycles

In the early days of speedway Fay Taylour of Ireland became a champion speedway rider. Born in 1904, she was travelling the world by her early 20s, racing on the incredibly popular speedway tracks in England, Australia and New Zealand.

A rider of considerable talent, she wowed crowds around the world until women were banned from speedway in England in 1930. Fay then became a racing car driver and excelled.
Fay Taylour

See also Raleigh, Amy Deim (Calthorpe), Marjorie Dare, Jackie Dare, Debenham Sisters, Maureen Swift (wall of death), Anka-Eve Goldmann and others.

Ero Sidecars was founded 1934 at the city of Oberursel by Anna Trauth. (source JF)

Helga Heinrich-Steudel raced MZ motorcycles and Formula One cars. (source JF) have images.

Marlene Parker, Monza 1965 Lambretta gallery

Elizabeth Cotton Cotton Motorcycles

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Allen Motorcycle Museum
Allen Motorcycle Museum
Private museum in Boston, MA, with many highly collectable vintage motorcycles for sale.