January 10, 2019
Ask any motorcycle history buff to name some of the most enthusiastic and active women of motorcycling in the last century, and chances are, the first person that they will name will be Dorothy "Dot" Robinson.
Dot was born Dorothy Goulding, the daughter of sidecar manufacturer and Saginaw, Michigan, Harley-Davidson dealer Jim Goulding, on April 22, 1912. Working in the dealership at age 16, she met her future husband, and future Harley-Davidson dealer, Earl Robinson. They married in 1931, bought the franchise from Dot’s father, and moved it to Detroit.
The five-foot-two-inch tall Robinson spent many weekends throughout the 1930s competing in endurance runs in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Oftentimes, Dot was the only female rider participating in the races. Her first victory was in a 100-mile endurance run, and she achieved a perfect score. Even more impressive was her second place finish in the brutal two-day "Jack Pine" enduro in 1937, where less than half of the entrants were even able to complete the race. Robinson went on to win the Jack Pine that took place a few years later in 1940.
Dot Robinson also acted as co-owner of the Detroit dealership and managed its financial books. In addition to those responsibilities, she worked as a motorcycle courier for a private defense contractor during World War II. In tandem with Motor Maids founder and secretary Linda Allen Dugeau, Robinson spearheaded the expansion of the membership growth of the club. After the group’s establishment in 1940, Dot was elected its first president, and she held the position for 25 years.
In her time with the Motor Maids, Dot Robinson logged up to 50,000 miles a year to help increase the visibility of the club and of motorcycling, in general. Near the end of her riding days, she estimated having logged more than 1.5 million total miles on motorcycles in her lifetime! It might be said that few women have done as much for motorcycling as Dot Robinson did, but more accurately, it should be said that few people have done as much for motorcycling as she has. Dot was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 1971, the Robinsons retired from their dealership and traveled around by motorcycle until Earl’s death in 1996. Three years later, Dot Robinson passed away in Orlando, Florida, at the age of 87, with the well-earned moniker "The First Lady of Motorcycling."