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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Three Women who Changed the Course of History On Bicycles @momentummag

"La bicycliste et caricature, 1897" by Montorgueil, Georges, 1857-1933 (creator)Somm, Henry, 1844-1907 (illustrator) - This image is available from the Brown University Library under the digital ID 1123259547400435.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
La bicycliste et caricature, 1897” by Montorgueil, Georges, 1857-1933 (creator)Somm, Henry, 1844-1907 (illustrator) – This image is available from the Brown University Library under the digital ID 1123259547400435.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Susan B. Anthony, famed suffragette leader and women’s rights reformer, once said of the bicycle, “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.” Anthony described the image of a woman on a bicycle as “the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
It may seem surprising that the bicycle 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?

In the mid 1800s, when the early women’s rights movement was gathering steam in the West, there were clearly defined roles and expectations for women. A woman’s place was thought to be in the home and her role was a domestic one. But as women pushed back against these structures and demanded a place in the public sphere, the bicycle came to be emblematic of their bid for freedom. By enabling women to control their own transportation needs, it offered an autonomy that had previously been out of reach. Riding a bicycle shattered norms of appropriate conduct for women of the day and ushered in a new era of women asserting control over their bodies and behavior.



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