Thursday, March 31, 2011

Women and Bicycles {throughout history}

I came across an article today that I found quite fascinating. It's actually an excerpt from a book that I think I may need to check out. Its topic centers on women and bicycles, and specifically, women throughout history and their attempts to master appropriate clothing while riding bicycles, so I couldn't help but stop and read. While I highly recommend popping over to read the entire article here, my favorite portion reads:
*Image from
John Kemp Starley's "Safety Bicycle" 1885
     "Yet bicycles did not give women the vote. There was no miracle; no suffragettes freewheeled through the House of Commons or D-locked themselves to the Downing Street railings. By the time women were finally given the vote in 1928, bicycles were as much a fact of ordinary life as underground trains. But by offering women a chance to see themselves as free, to take possession of their own physical health and to claim their independence in the workplace, the bicycle had done something extraordinary. It had changed the world and made it a better place.
     In some ways, it’s still doing so. A century on, cycling’s impact on both fashion and politics continues. The huge rise in the numbers of commuter cyclists in the past few years has led to a corresponding rise in cycle-related clothing. Not all of it has been beneficial. No one could claim that hi-vis does much for a sensitive complexion.
     But in mainland Europe, where cycles have been part of the general cityscape for decades, people adapt their cycles and their speed to suit what they’re wearing rather than the other way round. Instead of racing to work on a road bike as many do in London, they ride in exactly what they put on that morning. Sites such as make it plain that on a bike with a skirt-guard and a step-through frame, it’s perfectly possible to pedal across town with stilettos, two children and several large items of kitchen furniture.
     A bicycle still offers freedom, but this time from cars and queues, from oil, from rising prices and a life inside. It gives us back the landscape and makes us part of nature again. It belongs to everyone – every age, every class, every race and religion. And, most importantly of all, it’s fun. A century on, and bicycles are still liberating us all." -- from Bella Bathurst, Bicycles: The Chains that Set Women Free
**Note: It looks as though Bathurst's book, The Bicycle Book, can be purchased here. I can't seem to find a spot here in the U.S. quite yet to purchase, though I'm sure it could easily be shipped from the U.K.

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