It’s 1934, December 11, London England’s Lady Astor declared, “I am an unrepentant feminist and convinced that whatever a man can do, a woman can do too”. This stated during her official send off speech to the two motorcycle trail blazing woman Theresa Wallach (aged 26 at the time) and Florence “Blenk” Blenkiron. Pioneers for women in motorcycling, they began their “venture” by motorcycle, fitted with side-car and small trailer, to Cape Town South Africa.
Their Phelon & Moore (Yorkshire UK motorcycle manufacturer from 1904 -1967) Panther Redwing Model 100, was fondly named “The Venture”. It would support these two “dare devil” women as they prove to confirm Lady Astor’s statement mentioned above – undertaking this amazing motorcycle journey.
Both Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron were already accomplished competitive racers, who were savvy enough to raise corporate sponsorship– which just goes to show how seriously they were taken as motorcyclists. The pair shot straight across the Sahara through equatorial Africa, and South to the Cape, on the long and brutal trek without so much as a compass. A feat that no man had dared to even attempt.
France, Algiers, Cape Town by motorcycle. A journey none considered possible, yet survivable—by females. No back up, no GPS, no modern travel assists, bottled water, mobile telephones or for that fact proper tools–not even a compass. Straight across the Sahara in 1935. Most of us now 72 years of progress, would not even consider today.
The expedition took eight months to complete yet certainly, without challenge. They arrived in Cape Town South Africa, Monday July 29 1935 — a decent length of time considering the odds.
A remarkable and enlightening journey filled with personal tests of unimaginable levels. They fought climate conditions (heat, drifts, rivers), politics (numerous occasions the French Foreign Legion attempted to prevent their journey), mechanical failure (rebuilt a failed engine, fixed the trailer when it broke) and wild animals (visited by gorillas, lions, snakes).
Theresa Wallach continued to live her life with motorcycles and remained passionately involved until her death in 1998—she was 89. Before relocating in America in 1947, she worked as a dispatch rider during WWII and later pursued a degree in engineering, graduating from London’s University College.
In 1947, she moved to America and launched her own business importing motorcycles. She then started a motorcycle riding school with focus on instructing riders how to ride safely and with skill. Her reputed “Easy Motorcycle riding School” as it was called was very successful. Theresa became a well-known motorcycle rider and trainer in America.
Theresa was a founding member of WIMA (Women’s International Motorcycle Association) a reputed organization for women riders, worldwide.