Dot Robinson is considered a pioneer for promoting motorcycling for women in the middle of the 20th century. In 1941, Robinson helped form the Motor Maids, an organization for women who enjoyed motorcycling. Robinson also opened doors for women riders in the competition arena. A regular competitor in endurance runs in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, Robinson's desire to race came under attack. Attempts were made to prevent her from participating in the sport she loved. But she persevered and was allowed to compete, making it possible for other women to race in later years.
Robinson was born on April 22, 1912, in Australia, and was a motorcyclist even before she her birth. When her mother went into labor with Dot, her father, James Goulding, loaded Dot's mother into a sidecar rig and dashed off to the hospital.
Goulding was a sidecar designer and amateur racer and his designs were renowned for their reliability. Goulding moved to the United States to expand his sidecar business. The Goulding family made America home in 1918 and eventually settled in Saginaw, Michigan, running a motorcycle dealership. Dot grew up around motorcycles and started riding at a young age. She met her future husband, Earl, while she was in high school.
"Everyday after school, Earl would come to the shop to buy one part or another," Robinson recalled. "By the time we were married, Earl probably had enough parts to start his own store."
The Robinsons were married in 1931 and both participated in endurance runs and races. Dot earned her first trophy in 1930 at the Flint 100 Endurance race. After the couple made a record transcontinental run together in 1935, Harley-Davidson asked the Robinsons if they would like to run a dealership. Soon afterward the couple moved to Detroit and opened a successful Harley-Davidson dealership, which they ran until 1971.
In 1934, Dot entered her first Jack Pine National Endurance Championship in her home state of Michigan. By 1940, Dot won the famous Jack Pine in the sidecar class, becoming the first woman to win in AMA national competition. She repeated the feat in 1946.
While attending the Laconia national in 1940, Dot was approached by a New England rider named Linda Dugeau about starting a women's riding organization. Within a year, the Motor Maids was established. The organization was instrumental in convincing many women to try motorcycling for themselves. Motor Maid activities were covered extensively with a monthly column for years in American Motorcyclist magazine. In the 1950s, Dot began wearing her trademark pink riding outfits. She turned away from the traditional black leather outfits after movies of the day portrayed black-leather-clad motorcyclists as outlaws.
After the Robinsons sold their dealership in 1971, the couple traveled extensively by motorcycle. Dot's favorite trip was a 6,000-mile excursion through the country of her birth, Australia. Earl died in 1996, but Dot kept right on riding until January of 1998 at the age of 85, when knee replacement surgery made it too difficult to get on and off her sidecar rig. She figured she had totaled a million and a half miles in her years of riding.
Dorothy Robinson passed away on October 8, 1999. She was 87 years old.