Sunday, August 15, 2010

bicycles and biker girls

Back then, the bicycle was the fastest vehicle on Earth.  Bike races were the NASCAR of the day.  Thousands of spectators.  Indoor races at Madison Square Garden, etc.  Bikes also became a huge symbol of freedom for the new woman and feminism in general.  They played a major role in women starting to wear pants.  The best cyclist in the world at this time was Major Taylor, who is considered to be the first black athlete to ever be a world champion in any professional sport.

As Mrs. Reginald de Koven wrote for Cosmopolitan magazine in August, 1885, "To men, rich and poor, the bicycle is an unmixed blessing, but to women it is deliverance, revolution, salvation.  It is well nigh impossible to overestimate the potentialities of this exercise in the curing of the common and characteristic ills of womankind, both physical and mental, or to calculate the far reaching effects of its influence in the matters of dress and social reform ."

By allowing women the feeling of freedom, mobility, and independence, the bicycle helped to fundamentally transform social relations between the sexes. Not only did the bicycle play a large role in freeing women from the restraints of constricting fashions (trading long skirts and petticoats for shorter outfits, bloomers, and gaiters), it changed the idea of female beauty by dispelling the myths of women fragility and helplessness. The early women’s liberation movement, found in the bicycle, a vehicle for change; as the famous women emancipation advocate Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaimed: “Woman is riding to suffrage on a bicycle.”

and then...