Women and Bicycles
Women and Bicycles may not have been a topic that has been thought in your history class. However, many underestimate the profound significance of the bicycle as a cultural agent of change.
There’s a great book by national geographic which has been published back in 2011; Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle toFreedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way). It’s about this incredible story of how two-wheel gadget changed felinity and role of women in our modern society.
“To men, the bicycle, in the beginning, was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world.” ~ Munsey’s Magazine, 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.” ~ Susan B. Anthony, 1896
famed suffragette leader and women’s rights reformer.
“Many [female cyclists on cigar box labels] were shown as decidedly masculine, with hair cut short or pulled back, and smoking cigars, then an almost exclusively male pursuit. This portrayal reflected the old fears that women in pants would somehow supplement men as breadwinners and decision-makers.” ~ Sue Macy
The most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman. Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky
A Jewish immigrant, roughly around 1894, unlike most women of her century, a 23-year-old mother of three and a housewife. You don’t think much of it when we put her background like that. But when two men made an alleged bet that no woman could encircle the globe on a bicycle while earning $5,000 along the way, Annie took up the challenge.
She left Boston in full skirts on a Columbia bicycle. She set out to prove to the world that she’s not only physically and mentally capable, but also this is not something only men can do.
She carried advertising placards on her bicycle, which also got her the name; Londonderry as a contract with the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water company. She bicycled through Europe and North Africa and sailed on to the South Pacific before returning to the states through San Francisco.
15 months after she left Boston, she made it back to where she began. Londonderry went on to become a vocal – and popular – advocate for both cycling and women’s rights. The New York World remarked in 1895 that her trip was “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman,” leaving an immeasurable impact on the attitudes about women – and of women – at that day.
It may seem surprising that the bicycles could have played such a pivotal role in the women’s rights movement. What exactly was it about this familiar two-wheeled transportation device that lent itself so freely to unparalleled social change?
Of course, all these social changes didn’t happen overnight. But, it’s contribution to both improving women’s everyday lives can’t be denied. That’s why women and bicycles topic matters. I think we’re at a turning point here again. After the industrial revolution, we made cars widely accessible, affordable, luxurious, convenient and such. But we came to a point where we’re damaging our planet more than we could ever do.
According to a research done back in 2010, we currently have roughly just over a billion motor vehicles around the world. So what are we doing to solve this issue? We’re manufacturing less harmful fuels, we’re manufacturing electric cars etc., But does that solve our problem? Simply said, no!
Even if a car is electric, it’s still a car. It’s still not helping with our traffic problem, it’s still contributing to our green gas emissions. So what’s the next step? People in bigger cities realized our public transport system is failing us, people who can afford to live closer to their offices, do so and just walk for commuting. But there’s another percentage who realized, ebikes are the solution to our problem. They don’t create much of traffic as you can fit roughly about 8-10 electric bikes into the same space a car occupies. You can still freely commute up to 100 miles a day on a single charge, it costs a fraction of a price of the car, it’s healthy and it helps you with your mood immensely.
That’s why it’s difficult to think of another invention which has changed society as much as bicycles did, or has the potential to do so. Bicycles give you liberation, enjoyment, and freedom while at the same time bringing about changes which benefit society for a while. That’s why this week while we’re celebrating International Women’s day, we wanted to write an article about women and bicycles.