Sadie Mildred Grimm
In 1914, Sadie Grimm became the winner of the first motorcycling prize ever awarded in Canada to a woman in a competition open to men. In 2017, she was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
The June 20, 1914 headline in the Motoring section of the Manitoba Free Press read: Lady Wins Gold Medal. Nineteen-year-old Grimm succeeded where many male motorcycle riders had failed. In 1913/14, the Manitoba Motorcycle Club had offered a medal to the first motorcyclist to make the trip from Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach, a 100-kilometre challenge.
It was reported that there were numerous unsuccessful attempts to make the trip to the Beach while the ground was frozen. Others tried in the spring break up but found the swamps impossible.
On Sunday morning June 14, 1914, Grimm left Winnipeg on her 1914 seven-HP Big Twin Indian motorcycle planning to get there via Selkirk.
The Manitoba Free Press described her ride as follows:
“For twenty-five miles she had to break gravel eight inches deep while going thirty miles an hour she took several graceful slides but picked herself up unhurt. From Selkirk to St. Louis (now Petersfield) the road was fair but from then on it was all bog and pot holes. After riding paths and mudholes alternatively, Miss Grim decided to try the railroad track. This she found very bumpy but much preferable to the continual mudholes interspersed with stumps and roots. In the swampy section, Miss Grim (sic) passed a number of high power cars abandoned in the mud while the owners went hunting (for) teams (of horses). After four hours of solid plugging Miss Grim registered at the Empress (Hotel) and was told she was the first one to make her way through this season. Miss Grim, not satisfied with her achievement turned around after a few hours’ rest and rode back to the city via Teulon completing one of the most strenuous rides ever attempted by a Manitoba motorcyclist.”
Described by a great-niece as a “pistol,” Grimm was born on March 27, 1895 in Milverton, Ontario as the seventh of eight children. The family moved from Gretna to St. Francis Xavier before settling in Winnipeg. There she met future husband James (Jim) Roland Cruikshank.
The unusual nature and challenge of women riding motorcycles in this period is underscored by the Van Buren sisters’ experience where they were arrested for wearing men’s clothing on their famous 1916 U.S. transcontinental ride.
Grimm’s novel achievement made her an obvious choice as a spokesperson for the participation of women in motorcycling. In July 1914, the Winnipeg Tribune quoted her as promoting the activity as benefiting both health and independence for women.
Grimm passed away on February 8, 1970 in Winnipeg.
In 2015, the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba organized a ride commemorating and retracing Grimm’s historic achievement. A Sadie Grimm Ride sponsored by the Coalition of Manitoba Motorcycle Groups (CMMG) to Winnipeg Beach is now an annual event.
Sadie Grimm standing with her motorcycle on what the Historians believe is a wooden ferry in Winnipeg.