Photo Credit: Connor Radnovich
San Francisco Dykes on Bikes®Mourns Passing of Founding Member
Soni S.H.S. Wolf
San Francisco, CA. Monday, April 30, the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes® Women’s Motorcycle Contingent announces the death of Soni S.H.S. Wolf, a founding member of Dykes on Bikes and an inspiring mother of the movement for lesbian pride and dignity. Soni passed peacefully of natural causes the night of Wednesday April 25th. Soni was 69 when she died and is succeeded in death by the thousands of Dykes on Bike around the world who follow in her footsteps.
Kate Brown, past President and current Spokesperson for the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes had this to say: “Soni was one of those people who leaves an indelible mark on your life. Soni’s steadfast refusal to accept “Dyke” as an epithet was a continual lesson for the rest of us in courage and LGBTQ pride. She taught me leadership takes many forms; there is strength in patience, power in listening, and small acts have a way of being defining moments in history. Like the roads we ride, our lives take many twists and turns and I am forever grateful for the route that brought Soni into my life.”
Soni began riding with her sisters at the front of the SF Pride Parade in the late 1970s, shortly after the movement for women’s empowerment and visibility brought Dykes on Bikes to the parade’s front. Over the course of forty years that she has been with Dykes on Bikes, she helped the organization evolve into a 501(c)3 non-profit, spearheading the group’s mission to create a national and international community of women’s motorcyclists supporting philanthropic endeavors in LGBTQ communities.
Over 14 years, Soni guided a team of lawyers led by Attorney Brooke Oliver at 50 Balmy Law, who worked pro bono to successfully argue, all the way to the US Supreme Court twice, that the trademark Dykes on Bikes signifies pride within our community and is protected as political speech. Dykes on Bikes’ legal strategy helped overturn an unconstitutional law, part of the Lanham Act, in what has been hailed as one of the most important Freedom of Expression cases in years (Matal vs Tam <www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1293_1o13.pdf> ).
“INSERT BROOKS QUOTE” says Brooke Oliver.
In April, the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade Board, in recognition of her significant contributions to the LGBTQ community that spanned decades of work, selected Soni as a Community Grand Marshal for the 2018 Pride Parade. Soni was deeply touched and honored. George Ridgely, Executive Director of SF Pride Parade, speaking on behalf of the Board, said: “INSERT GEORGE QUOTE”.
Soni mentored many Dykes on Bikes, was a continuous leader in LGBTQ community, in 2016 Sainted by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence®. She was a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. Soni moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, never imagining she would find herself an advocate and leader in a historic movement for equality. The iconic imagery, words, and legacy of Dykes on Bikes would not be what they are today without Soni Wolf.
A public celebration of Soni’s life and contributions to the LGBTQ community will be held Sunday June 24thon the SF Pride main stage. The San Francisco Dykes on Bikes has established an email address (RememberingSoni@dykesonbikes.org) and encourages everyone to send their thoughts, memories, stories, and goodbyes to Soni. A private memorial service for Dykes on Bikes and Soni’s close friends is also scheduled.
The Soni Wolf Memorial fund has been established for those wishing to contribute. Soni was the Dykes on Bikes’ longstanding secretary, historian, and in 2016 was granted Secretary Emeritus. Soni’s wish was that the documents, accolades, and historical items of the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes in her care be archived and the fund will be used in part to help with those efforts. All donations to the Soni Wolf Memorial fund through the Dykes on Bikes are tax-deductible. Contributions to the fund can be made through GoFundMe at the Soni Wolf Memorial Fund Website (https://www.gofundme.com/create/story/soni-wolf-memorial-fund)
Dykes on Bikes History:
In 1976 a small group of 20-25 women motorcyclists gathered at the head of the San Francisco Pride Parade and, unbeknownst to them, a tradition began. One of these women coined the phrase “Dykes on Bikes®” and the San Francisco Chronicle picked it up and ran with it. For the next several years, riders just showed up and rode—no formal organization or registration. It was this way for several years until the middle to late 1980s. However, as San Francisco Pride became more structured and the group’s numbers kept growing, the need to organize Dykes on Bikes® became necessary; thus, the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (WMC) was born. However, in the press and LGBTQ culture, they continued to be known as Dykes on Bikes®. In 2003, the organizers voted to recognize our long history by changing the name to the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes® Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (SFDOBWMC).
The WMC was started by LB Gunn, Kalin Elliot-Arns, Christine Elliot, Sabine Balden, and Mel. As one of the founding members, Soni Wolf rode at the front of the San Francisco Pride Parade every year for four decades and was the soul behind the group’s tremendous legal efforts to register their name and logo with the United States Patent Trademark Office. Today the group registers and organizes hundreds of bikes for the San Francisco Pride Parade. www.dykesonbikes.org/history
San Francisco Dykes on Bikes is the mother chapter to all Dykes on Bikes charters. There are currently 16 chapters worldwide: throughout the US, Europe, and Australia.
Available for interviews, upon request:
•Brooke Oliver, 50 Balmy Law – lead counsel
•Kate Brown, Spokesperson and Past President of San Francisco Dykes on Bikes