My husband is a huge cyclist. He rides road, cyclocross, and mountain bikes. Our garage is overrun by bikes and he is constantly looking for new bikes. When we started dating, we would ride together because I was preparing for the Bike MS ride in honor of my mother who passed away from MS when I was 16. Michael has taken his love for cycling and races and has even created a team called Team Feral Catz. His team has a great cause and uses this team to support the MS Society, which I think is amazing. Check out his instagram and his website is coming up soon! I got a relationship with bikes, as you can see, and so today I was looking at photos from our last ride and was wondering when women first started to ride bikes. I always wonder when women were allowed to do things because you wouldn't believe all the ridiculous rules women have had to follow in the past. I was looking online and found this great article and thought it was so interesting, here is a link.
Let's get into it, shall we? During the 1890s, the women's suffragette movement and the cycling craze became rather intertwined. Susan B Anthony, a huge figure in the suffragette movement, even said that bicycles had "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." Once the Safety bike was introduced in the 70s, women were able to ride bikes much easier. This opened up a new opportunity for women and started to turn the wheels for their independence. The Safety bike was met a much needed demand for women friendly bikes and it was marketed as the bike for everyone.
"“The safety bicycle fills a much-needed want for women in any station of life,” said The Bearings, a cycling periodical, in October, 1894, “It knows no class distinction, is within reach of all, and rich and poor alike have the opportunity of enjoying this popular and healthful exercise.”" When women started to ride bikes, they were able to explore more opportunities for themselves. They didn't have to depend on others for the transportation and would be able to access larger areas - which provided new work opportunities for them. This also allowed them to participate in the suffragette movement and it helped introduce the idea of the New Woman who wasn't constrained by constructs of society and the bicycle helped them be seen more equally to men.
Along with the helping women be more independent, bicycles helped women to achieve more comfortable fashion. Since they were unable to easily wear their normal clothing on bikes, which usually consisted of a corsets, heavy petticoats, and large multi-layer skirts. Now just compare what I am wearing to what she had to wear... we've come a long way!
Cycling required a more practical, rational form of dress, and large billowing skirts and corsets started to give way to bloomers -- baggy trousers, sometimes called a divided skirt, cinched at the knee. Although bloomers first appeared decades earlier, and a major social battle was waged over their propriety, the cycling craze practically mandated changes in women’s attire for any woman who wanted to ride. (Londonderry)Along with changing fashion, cycling helped change the perceptions of women. It changed people's views on femininity and on what was deemed proper for women to do.
The prim and proper gentility expected of women yielded to acceptance that women, too, could exert themselves on the bicycle sensibly dressed for the activity and not only retain, but even enhance, their femininity. Once hidden under yards of fabric, women cyclists shed their old skins and emerged, quite literally, as “new women.” (Londonderry)
So, there is more than to the bike than just an object for exercise. The bike was tool for women and now I appreciate my bike even more knowing that it was a symbol of progress for the suffragette women.
Also... one more thing on bikes! This is a piece of artwork that I enjoy, that has a bike in it! This is Ramon Casa and Pere Romeu on a Tandem 1897 by Ramon Casas. Bikes were actually used a lot in Spanish Modernism to show movement and they used biked to critique current fashion and propriety. Bikes were also loved by the Dadaists. They loved the way bicycles showed movement and loved bike culture. Duchamp was obsessed with the bicycle wheel, he was a strange guy haha.
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