Bessie B. Stringfield, who rode her 1978 Harley Davidson motorcycle to and from church until she was in her 70s, died Tuesday. She was 81. "I really am hoping to have a chance to give Bessie the long overdue recognition she deserves for breaking down barriers not only for women but for blacks as well," said Alice Stone, who interviewed Stringfield for a Public Broadcasting documentary about women motorcyclists. Stringfield, who was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association's Hall of Fame in 1990, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She was raised in Boston and moved to Florida in 1939. During World War II she was a motorcycle dispatch rider. She bought a house in Opa-locka in 1952, Stone said. "In 1959, when she got bored with being a cook for private families, she became a licensed practical nurse," The Herald reported in a 1981 article. Reporter Bea L. Hines remembered as a child watching Stringfield ride in the Orange Blossom Parade in Overtown. "Bessie cut a striking figure as she led the parade, the only woman among the other bikers," Hines said. Stringfield never believed in doing things like everyone else. "Nice girls didn't go around riding motorcycles in those days," she said in 1981. Friends called her "B.B.," said Anna Rolle-Cook. "She tried to get me to ride her motorcycle, but I wouldn't." Said the Rev. Charles Mallen: "She rode through every one of the 48 states. She was a member of the Motor Maids of America. She told me she was 16 years old when she rode her first motorcycle." Stringfield was honored in August 1990 during the opening of the Motorcycle Heritage Museum in Westerville, Ohio. "Her photo was taken with Jay Leno," said Paul Jamiol, an artist from Boston, who was commissioned to include Stringfield in a mural of women motorcyclists. "I met her and fell in love with the woman. She was the kind of woman you couldn't help but keep in touch with." "I called her my motorcycle kid," said Arlene Catalano, the director of Catalano's Nurse Registry in Hialeah, where Stringfield worked as a nurse for about 20 years. A private memorial service was held Friday at St. Martha's Catholic Church. "She had requested no services but we didn't listen," said the Rev. John McLaughlin, pastor at St. Martha's. "We still wanted to pray for her. The bonding we had at the service was all about her. One man came all the way from Texas. Two bikers were there. I'd say 80 percent of the people at the service were not Catholic." Arrangements were made by Range Funeral Home. There are no survivors.
From: The Miami Herald, Miami, Florida, on Saturday, February 20, 1993
Her parents were James R. White & Maggie M. Cherry per her Social Security Application.
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