Women have played a significant role in the growth of popularity of cycling. Tied in time to the Women's Suffrage Movement, the bicycle came to highlight the movements focus on women's freedom. Today's cyclists, men and women, owe a great deal of gratitude to the efforts and struggles of the past.
From the first manufactured bicycle in America in 1878, as with many other aspects of society at the time, women were discriminated against, degraded and admonished that riding a bicycle was not a good idea - sound familiar? Every imaginable excuse was presented to oppress women’s use of the bicycle, even stating health concerns for the fragile and delicate women of our world. There was even concern voiced regarding a woman's ability to understand these complex machines. Guys, do not try this at home.
Women were required to "dress appropriately", meaning long skirts generally tied at the ankles. Can you imagine how many serious accidents were caused by this?
Here are a couple of quotes from those who state the cause much better than I. I’ve included a few links at the end of this article so you can read more.
“One can imagine the indignation, often expressed in terms of health or morality, that many a male felt when the woman was shown to be just as adept at handling the cycle as her counterpart.” Amelia Bloom, Woman's Rights Advocate.
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader in the women’s movement wrote in an 1895 article for the American Wheelman, that “the bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect, self-reliance….” It was a prophetic statement as women, who were leaving their homes (unchaperoned!) to socialize and cycle on country roads and in parks and becoming more involved in public life. Young women were gaining more freedoms and with that came confidence and a feeling of empowerment as the Victorian era drew to a close.” Sue Macy, Cycle & Style.
In today’s world, women play a huge role in the growth and promotion of cycling in our society. Women lead advocacy efforts, education and the push for the use of cycling in our everyday lives. Women race teams are gaining prominence, although the competition with the male side of the sport for sponsorship dollars is sometimes overwhelming.
It's hard for most in today's society to look at the behaviors of the past with anything but disgust. It's a great feeling to step out at one of Shawnee Trails rides and see all the women participating. We are PROUD to be able to say that around 40% of our club is women. We have ride leaders, board members and volunteers playing leading roles. And please, I dare you to throw some of the nonsense notions of the not too distant past at Laura, Dina, Katie, Anne, Sabrina or Jan! In true trail parlance, I wanna be there when you get your "come uppins".
We can't talk about Bike Month without thanking ALL the women in our club.
How times have changed.