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Motorcycle Mama: 1937

Motorcycle Mama: 1937

September 15, 1937. "First of fair sex to obtain motorcycle license in Capital. Although she weighs only 88 pounds -- one-third of the machine she rides, Mrs. Sally Halterman is the first woman to be granted a license to operate a motorcycle in the District of Columbia. She is 27 years old and 4 feet, 11 inches tall. Immediately after receiving her permit, Mrs. Halterman was initiated into the D.C. Motorcycle Club -- the only girl ever to be accorded this honor." View full size.


On Shorpy:
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A little history on "Dot" Robinson

She was really really something!

Small differences a result of retrospective reporting.

The posters story looks to have been written long after, by someone who wanted it to sound like it was written then. The original story as pasted in the comments has two important clues. As mentioned before, the original refers to her as "Miss Robinson" while the more current peice uses a married name. Also, the fabrication states: "Mrs. Halterman was initiated into the D.C. Motorcycle Club -- the only girl ever to be accorded this honor." While the older story says she intended at that time to ask for membership, implying that it wasn't a certainty.

[A Shorpy mystery! Somehow you've gotten very confused. At least you've gotten me very confused. Below, the newspaper article that you think was "fabricated." What are you thinking is "the original" -- the original what? The caption under the photo comes from the Library of Congress. - Dave]

Where do I buy the poster?

I ride motorcycles, and own two, and YES, I'm a chick! I love these vintage pics, and would be honoured to have her splashed against a prominent wall in my home. Good for her!! Girls, get on out there. It's tons of fun, believe me! Leave your fears at the door. This sport is just too much fun to miss out on!

Harley Sportster or Fat Boy?

Jimmy, I appreciate your opinion but disagree. The 883 Sportster is truly an entry level bike. It has centered ergos (no forward controls or floorboards), less weight and more ground clearance than any of the Softail models. Its reduced fork rake and better clearance make it far more maneuverable than any Fat Boy. Unlike the 1200 motor, the 883 doesn't make that much torque and is very tractable and easy to control. I think apart from Harley, there are better starter bikes, but if you must have a Harley and you're a newbie, a Sporty is hard to beat.

Harley Sportster

Biker Girl, most people think the Sportster is an easy bike to ride, but that is far from the truth. The Sportster came out in 1958 and was adopted by many as a "bar hopper" motorcycle. The Sportster is really harder to ride than the other models. it has a higher center of gravity and more torque in the lower gears and is by no means a starter bike. I've owned just about ever model and would strongly recommend the Fat Boy model.

Ya reckon

she had a shirt that said "If you can read this, the bastard fell off!"?

Confusion on the distaff side

If your information is correct, I'd say that Robinson is her maiden name, and Halterman is her married name. "Miss" v. "Mrs.

Name Difference

>> I don't know what could account the Harris & Ewing photographer mistaking the name "Robinson" for "Halterman."

It probably wasn't a mistake.

Productive Cussing

Typically the differences in names between the Library of Congress and Washington Post archives are slight variances of spelling. I don't know what could account the Harris & Ewing photographer mistaking the name 'Robinson' for 'Halterman'.

Washington Post, Sep 11, 1937

D.C.'s Lone Girl Motorcyclist Stormed
Loudly to Get Permit

Sally Robinson - She Weighs Only 88 Pounds - Had to 'Buffalo' Stalwart Policeman but Finally Won His Praise - and License.

By dint of stamping her foot Sally Robinson, of 2120 H street northwest, has become the only girl in Washington licensed to ride a motorcycle.

Miss Robinson - all 88 pounds of her - has been operating motorcycles on and off since 1928, but last spring she decided she wanted a permit. The policeman assigned to officiate at her examination had different ideas, however. Although the District has no law against women motorcyclists, this examiner apparently thought it should have.

"First he said I was too little, then he said I was too young," Miss Robinson declaimed yesterday, malice toward all policeman shining in her eyes." She is 27, years old and 4 feet 11 inches tall, and didn't see what either factor had to do with her sitting behind the handlebars of a motorcycle.

"I passed the written examination all right - passed it twice, in fact. The first time I got 80 on it, but that wasn't good enough for him so I went down again and got 92, when that didn't satisfy him, I got my lawyer.

"Well, that cop looked from me to the lawyer, and from the lawyer to me, and then he said I could take my road test," she continued. Her difficulties had not ended, however. Thinking all was well, she said goodbye to her lawyer and started out for the road test.

Then the policeman announced he would not ride with her in the sidecar of the machine he provided for the test - he said he was afraid to.

But when the test was over, the examiner announced, "Lady, you handle it as well as a man could. Your balance is swell and you know the machine. But I didn't see you kick it over so I can't give you the permit."

That was when Miss Robinson started "cussing him out." "I called him such names - well, I was ashamed of myself. But it worked, and I have the permit."

Miss Robinson uses the smallest type of machine built, but at that it weighs 325 pounds, nearly four times as much as she does. Despite the fact, it occasionally falls on her, she insists she would rather ride that machine than eat when she's hungry. As for automobiles, she has no use for them whatsoever.

At present her chief goal is membership in the Capitolians, a newly formed motorcycle club of which Lynn Cook, 1515 U street northwest is president. She will be on the only girl in the club, which does not share the Police Department's prejudice against the sex.


No riding on the bitch seat for this Hot Mamma.

Go Biker Chick!!

Most bikes are too tall for the shorter-than-average woman and man even today. I'm 5-foot-3 and can barely reach the ground on my Harley Sportster. I had to make sure to get boots with good heels. I can't imagine riding in that helmet. It looks like a bathing cap!

Wanna Race?

Her squint says: Road rash? maybe a time or two. What about it?

Still a girl of 27

Wow! 27 years old and still a *girl*! at 4 foot 11, that makes her more like a midget.

A total package

Those boots just *make* the outfit. And she's got great gloves. You'd think someone could make a bike more her size, though. Maybe she got one eventually, custom-built.

Aunt Eva was a Carny

Rode loop the loops on her Indian in 1932. Same style duds, but when not on the bike add a gunbelt. Instead of a helmet, add a rakish cap (think Brando).

I'll have to see about scanning a picture of her in her "uniform."

Look at her feet.

She really is tiny. She can barely touch the ground. Love the boots and the jodhpurs though. If I were still riding, I'd have to think about getting a similar outfit.

Crash Guards

By the looks of the crash guard, it had been laid down a few times on the right side. The front fender and headlight rim didn't fare too well either.

Brain Bucket?

Not much of a helmet, but I was pretty stupid when I rode my Harley... I'd love to have her bike now.

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