What bicycling has meant to women…since 1895Posted: August 29, 2009
Ok – obviously much has changed for women in 114 years, but this excerpt about Women and Bicycling from Statemaster.com gives us some historical perspective. Bicycles emancipated women – in style, in transportation options, in the ability to explore life on their own. Pretty neat, huh?
“The diamond-frame safety bicycle gave women unprecedented mobility, contributing to their emancipation in Western nations. As bicycles became safer and cheaper, more women had access to the personal freedom they embodied, and so the bicycle came to symbolize the New Woman of the late nineteenth century, especially in Britain and the United States.
The bicycle was recognized by nineteenth-century feminists and suffragists as a “freedom machine” for women. American Susan B. Anthony said in a New York World interview on February 2,1896: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” In 1895 Frances Willard, the tightly-laced president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, wrote a book called How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, in which she praised the bicycle she learned to ride late in life, and which she named “Gladys”, for its “gladdening effect” on her health and political optimism. Willard used a cycling metaphor to urge other suffragists to action, proclaiming, “I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum….”