Bicycles and women

The bicycle birth had an impact on both women and men. Both genres benefited from it, but women did it more intensively. The American magazine Munsey wrote this in 1896:

“To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they new in their work and in their play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world.”

Such was the consciousness awakening of women’s empowerment. This new vehicle allowed them to acquire independence and did not need men for some trips. Some have argued that this invention constituted the most important technology which has been helping women through centuries. Indeed, Susan B. Anthony said 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. 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.”

I talked about the history of the bicycle with the draisine at the beginning, but it did not reach real popularity until the invention of the chain and the use of rubber in the second half of the 19th century. The life for women at that time was tremendously unfair. They spent their time inside home, tea houses or social parties. The bike democratization was a ray of sunlight. Not surprisingly Frances Williard (president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, an important American suffragist organizations in the 19th century) experienced a freedom feeling which made her a reference activist while riding a bike at the age of 53. Even more, she dedicated a whole book to the bicycle.

Probably the clearer change the bike caused was the use of trousers since women had been using skirt and other garment. Thus, baggy pants popularized to make pedaling easier and more comfortable. Both men and women criticized the new behaviors without realizing the changes were going to be permanent.

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