After meeting Ferrar at the AMA Heritage Museum, Stringfield grew close to the New York-based writer. The two remained dear friends until 1993, when Stringfield passed away from a heart condition. Before her death, Stringfield asked Ferrar to keep her memory alive. “Bessie had no children and no other heirs, and she certainly didn’t know any writers who could tell her story — much less a writer who was also a biker,” says Ferrar, who finished her book in 1996. Six years later, the AMA inducted Stringfield into its Hall of Fame.
In recent years the legend of Bessie Stringfield has grown thanks to the internet, allowing a new generation to become familiar with her story. “As often happens when information spreads exponentially, errors and myths creep in, even among well-meaning admirers and fans,” says Ferrar. “Over the years I have quietly watched this happen, with mixed feelings.” Stringfield has become the embodiment of a rough-and-rugged free spirit, thumbing her nose at convention, but Ferrar says, “There are all types of rugged, and not all of them are physical. It takes tough mental grit — foresight, planning, and craftiness — to do what Bessie did in the Jim Crow era and get away with it.”
“Bessie was not a standard-bearer for the organized civil rights movement or for women in general,” Ferrar continues. “She couldn’t be, as she was ahead of both of those movements. I called her ‘a one-woman civil rights movement,’ and that phrase has often been repeated, but what I meant was, Bessie let nothing stand in her way despite racial or gender prejudice. She was an outstanding and brave individual.” Regardless of intent, Stringfield’s actions have rippled through time, and her legacy continues to influence and inspire people like Porsche Taylor, a Los Angeles-based graphic designer.
In 2011, Taylor read one of Ferrar’s stories about Bessie Stringfield and wondered why there weren’t more stories about black women on motorcycles. She decided she would have to be the one to tell them, establishing Black Girls Ride, a publication that celebrates women of color in the motorcycle scene. She has since become a modern-day Bessie Stringfield of sorts, crossing the U.S. eight times herself.