Bicycling and feminism

Women gained a significant amount of independence with the invention of the bicycle.[1][2][3] This device gave them the freedom to travel outside the home of their own power.[1][2] Bicycle riding also necessitated more practical clothing for women and led to significant changes to female attire in society.[2][4] One individual from the time period watching female cyclists remarked, "It is hard to believe, that they were the same women who went out in the afternoon for the formal carriage parade."[4]


Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that the bicycle was a tool which motivated women to gain strength and take on increased roles in society.[2] Susan B. Anthony stated in 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. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel."[2]

Beatrice Grimshaw, who went on to a life of travel and adventure, describes a girlhood of Victorian propriety, in which she was: "the Revolting Daughter–as they called them then. I bought a bicycle, with difficulty. I rode it unchaperoned, mile and miles beyond the limits possible to the soberly trotting horses. The world opened before me. And as soon as my twenty-first birthday dawned, I went away from home, to see what the world might to give to daughters who revolted."[5]

19th century medicine

An 1895 article in The Literary Digest reviewed literature from the time period which discussed the bicycle face, and noted that The Springfield Republican warned against excessive cycling by "women, girls, and middle-aged men".[6] Concerns about bicycle face with regard to female cyclists were detailed by medical doctor A. Shadwell in an 1897 article for the National Review in London titled "The hidden dangers of cycling".[7] His article was subsequently discussed and analyzed in The Advertiser.[8]

Bicycle enthusiasts disagreed with this medical assessment, and asserted that the physical activity was good to improve one's health and vitality.[4]

See also


  1. 1 2 Swedan, Nadya (2001). Women's Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. xvii. ISBN 978-0834217317.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Vivanco, Luis Antonio (2013). Reconsidering the Bicycle: An Anthropological Perspective on a New (old) Thing. Routledge. pp. 32–34. ISBN 978-0415503884.
  3. Aronson, Sidney H. (Mar 1952). "The Sociology of the Bicycle". Social Forces. 20 (3): 305. doi:10.2307/2571596. JSTOR 2571596.
  4. 1 2 3 Herlihy, David V. (2006). Bicycle: The History. Yale University Press. pp. 270–273. ISBN 978-0300120479.
  5. Grimshaw, Beatrice (April 1939). "How I found adventure". Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  6. "The 'Bicycle Face'". The Literary Digest. 11 (19): 8 (548). 7 September 1895.
  7. Shadwell, A. (1 February 1897). "The hidden dangers of cycling". National Review. London.
  8. "The Intoxicating Bicycle". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 16 March 1897. p. 6.

Further reading

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