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.
"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." Susan B Anthony
“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.
In today’s world, women play a extensive 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 have women ride leaders, board members and volunteers playing leading roles in our club. And please, I dare you to throw some of the nonsense notions of the not too distant past at Stefani, Jessica, Christine, Jennifer or any of our Sarah's! 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.