I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.”
— American suffragette Susan B. Anthony in 1896 —
In 2008, I made and published the book Girls, Muslims & Motorcycles, together with writer, travel companion and then-lover, Gaea Schoeters. In text and photos, the book tells of numerous encounters and adventures during our overland motorbike journey through nine Muslim countries in Eurasia. There the seed was planted for my global storytelling project about pioneering women and girls blazing trails with their vehicles:
— Stories, ventures, and a love for stubborn nuts
Women face obstacles moving in public spaces, be it prejudices, traditions, prohibitive laws, violence. All over the world, courageous, creative women have found ways to overcome these obstacles. Using specific means of transportation, they challenge gender stereotypes, gain independence, self-confidence and strength. Each one of them changes her society from within, and becomes a role model inspiring others to follow suit.
In the West, the pioneering work was mainly —yet not always— done in the past. Women truckers no longer raise eyebrows, nor do woman motorbikers and pilots. The pioneers (still alive) were born in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. Dispatch riders of WWII for instance. Outside of the West, it is often happening now : Iranian truck drivers, skateboarding girls in Cambodia, a pilot in Pakistan, 4×4-riding bedouins in Oman, cycling girls in rural India, drivers in Saudi Arabia, taxi scooter riders in Bangladesh and Tanzania.
Move she does is delving into a large array of ages, cultures, classes, backgrounds and vehicles, and will take many years to develop to its full range and potential.
Through this collection and storytelling, I aim to unearth a part of untold herstory, showcase the courage, power and ongoing struggles of these often unsung sheroes, to inspire next generations, and to create more understanding and equity.
The project consists of portraits, interviews, context, audiorecordings and short videos of these trailblazers.
The stories will be spread through articles in magazines (some niche, some general); talks in schools; a dedicated website, maybe a podcast. After having collected stories in some 20 countries, in 4-5 years, this will become a book.
Another roll out of this project and a very valuable one, is the distribution of the Move she does-stories in the countries where I find them : in local media, in schools, in villages, together with and by local women.
First portraits of Elke Maria Löhnerz, 78 years old (°1944)
Biker up to this day, rally car racer, sailor, epee fighter, teacher / Germany
First archive material of Elke Maria Löhnerz