My name is Dan Ruderman and I grew up with the stories of my Grandmother’s many daring adventures.
Addie grew up in New York with her sister, Augusta, and their brother Albert. They were socially active, good students, and very physically active. They skated, swam, played tennis and rode horses as well as motorcycles. Both sisters were pilots, and Gussie later became a member of The 99's. Somewhere in a family photography album, I have a picture of Addie, Gussie and my mother as a young girl standing in front of Gussie’s plane. The sisters are wearing furs, as I recall.
Her ride across the United States in 1916, is by far my favorite and has been recounted many times. But there was more to Grandma Adeline than is often told...She was tenacious and didn't back down when she wanted to accomplish something
During World War I and the Preparedness Movement, Adeline and Augusta had tried to enlist as dispatch rider for the Army, but they were rejected for one reason only; women were not allowed to serve.
Serving the country was important to them, so they checked in with the American Red Cross. There they were rejected because they were not nurses.
The sisters were convinced that women could serve as motorcycle couriers and bring correspondence to where it needed to go, quickly and efficiently, and thereby help our war effort.
Well, they set out to prove that women could do this work, and let the Army know, that “Woman can, if she will”, as Augusta frequently said.
It was 1916. Women couldn’t vote, didn’t have equal rights, and couldn’t even wear pants in many towns and states. They could ride, though, and Addie and Gussie rode.
The Denver new paper called them trouble makers####.
Paul Derkum, an official of the Indian Motorcycle Company said of the sisters, “Beyond question, the Van Burens have made one of the most noteworthy motorcycle trips ever accomplished, chiefly because they have proved that the motorcycle is a universal vehicle.”
After their ride, although they had proved themselves, it was still 1916 and when they re-applied to be dispatch riders, they were again rejected due to their gender.
I have every reason to be grateful for my grandmother’s frequent breaks with tradition – literally every reason – since I would not be here if she was not such a strong, independent and passionately committed woman!
This site is about her journey, and the journey our family is taking in recreating the famous 1916 ride - with the help of friends, family, interested people and sponsors. I hope you will join us for this exciting time in history.