We are honored to announce Mary McGee as the Grand Marshal for the 16th Annual Barber Vintage Festival, October 8-10, 2021. AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Mary McGee is one of the most pioneering motorcyclists in history. She not only broke barriers for women riders, but for all riders. Her accomplishments are many and have impacted the sport in numerous ways.
Born in1936 in Juneau, Alaska, she later lived in Iowa and then Arizona. She met her husband, Don, who was an expert mechanic and introduced her to car and motorcycle racing. In 1957, she began racing cars with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Through a series of fortunate introductions, she was offered a variety of cars to race, and consistently won her races. Instantly recognizable in her pink polka-dot helmet, she raced sports cars by Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche, AC, Corvette, Elva, Jaguar, and Lotus, winning races at tracks in Arizona, California, and Texas. Mary always described herself as “fast on my feet, fast with my brain, self-conscious and lacking confidence,” however she had “no trouble with confidence on the racetrack.”
The first woman to hold an FIM racing license, Mary McGee learned to ride motorcycles in 1957 on a 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub, and later took up motorcycle road racing to try to improve her car-racing skills. McGee began road racing motorcycles in 1960, becoming the first woman in the US after passing an audition on a 125 Honda CB92, wearing a pink polka-dot helmet. This was just one of many firsts she has accomplished. A January 1962 Motor Trend article started with “Housewives revolt!” and ended with “So ladies, if your life is dull and you are bored with freeway traffic, don’t give up. Buy a motorcycle and join Mary McGee.”
Mary was the first woman to finish the Baja 1000 (and the first and only woman to ride the Baja 500 solo which was one of her most memorable accomplishments as she finished ahead of several two-man teams). She was encouraged to try this by Steve McQueen and says this is the hardest thing she did in her life.
She was the first woman to Roadrace and then first to race Motocross in the United States beginning in 1963 when she switched to dirt riding and rode her 1962 250cc Honda Scrambler in an AMA District 37 enduro. Although popular in Europe, motocross had not yet made its way to the United States, and in February 1967, she was the first woman to race motocross in the States including the first motocross races at Carlsbad and Saddleback, and numerous west-coast tracks.
In 1970, the McGees moved to Idaho and opened a small Husqvarna dealership. Two years later, she became the Husky District Manager for seven western states, all the while racing motocross in Idaho, Washington, and Nevada, and escalating her involvement in the Baja. Also in the 1970s, McGee worked for Motorcyclist magazine and joined a 24-hour endurance road race in Las Vegas, in which the magazine’s team changed riders every hour on a 650cc Suzuki.
Mary has served as an ambassador for motorcycling, whether as a pioneering female competitor or through her speaking engagements that encourage women to try motorcycling and racing. “I would like to see more women — and more younger women — get involved. It’s not whether you finish first, second or last. It’s the struggle to finish. It is the journey of your life, I never experienced any backlash being a female on a motorcycle, or maybe I just never noticed.” McGee is quoted as saying.
In 2011, she got her Motorcycle Street license at age 75. In 2018, Mary was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame. Mary will serve as Grand Marshal for the Barber Vintage Festival and as the Honored guest at Motorcycles by Moonlight .
We are honored to have her as our Grand Marshal for the 2021 Barber Vintage Festival. She joins past guests, John Surtees, Denis Manning, Cook Neilson, Kevin Schwantz, Paul Smart, Gene Romero, Pierre Terblanche, Miguel Galluzi, Erik Buell, Colin Edwards, Wes Cooley, Colin Seeley, John Penton, and the 9 Britten Motorcycles.
The 16th Barber Vintage Festival is October 8-10, 2021. There will be a Vintage Swap Meet, AHRMA racing, Fan Zone, VJMC motorcycle shows, demo rides and much more. Tickets are on sale now at www.barberracingevents.com