Talking about the fears of "bicycle face" and other preoccupations during the early history of women and bicycling

circa 1900 bicycling ladies Schenectady

Two women stopped during a bicycle ride around 1900 in Schenectady. / photo: Larry Hart Collection, Schenectady County Historical Society, Grems-Doolittle Library

This could be interesting: The Schenectady County Historical Society is hosting a talk May 13 -- "Women on Wheels" -- by author/historian Ellen Gruber Garvey about the contentious early history of bicycling and women. Blurbage:

When women and girls first rode bicycles in large numbers in the 1890s, they celebrated their new freedom to move around in the world. Susan B. Anthony said she stood and rejoiced, "every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood." She thought bicycling had "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." Is it surprising that conservatives panicked at visions of women riding alone, with other women, or with unsuitable men, and campaigned to stop them?
Bicycling women wanted to keep their new mobility, and there were plenty of arguments back and forth. Some claimed that women would damage themselves by acquiring a "bicycle face," or would get sexual pleasure from bicycling -- and thus ruin their reproductive capacities. Although this seems like something that happened long ago, women, especially, are often still discouraged from physical activity and mobility in the US and in other countries. How did that happen? Could bicycling again offer freedom to all?

Ellen Gruber Garvey is a professor at the New Jersey City University and has written books about the history of scrapbooking and advertising around the turn of the 20th century.

The talk is at the Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave in Schenectady) at 2 pm on Saturday, May 13. It's free.

Earlier on AOA: When bikes weren't just something on the side


"get sexual pleasure from bicycling"

I wish. Please, if there is a bicycle seat out there that is an "aid" to that, let me know and I'll buy it.

Is there any study showing that women in the US face systemic discouragement regarding mobility and physical activity? I can't say I've ever seen or heard of any instance. Maybe in religious minority communities like Hassidim...

"The awful effects of velocipeding."

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