Women on the Move: Cycling and the Rational Dress Movement | Cycling History

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On the evening of October 9, 1893, at a prayer-meeting of the High Street Methodist Church in Binghamton, New York, Samuel Stanley rose to address the congregation. The reason? The purchase of a bicycle by Mrs Burrows, a widow and active worker in the church. Stanley, warming to his subject, denounced cycling as unladylike, unchristian, and a disgrace to the church, and the pastor, Reverend John Bradshaw, sided with him on the issue.[1]

Three years later in 1896, Charlotte Smith and Virginia N. Lount of the Women’s Rescue League issued a resolution in which they bewailed the “great curse … inflicted on the people of this country because of the present bicycle craze.” Not only did they view imprudent use of the bicycle as a cause of “the diseases peculiar to women,” but “immoderate bicycling” was “to be deplored because of the evil associations and opportunities offered by cycling sports.”

“The bicycle,” opined the moral guardians, “is the devil’s advocate agent morally and physically.” Calling on all “true women and clergymen” to support them, they denounced cycling by women as “indecent and vulgar,” and for good measure demanded that “married women should not resort to riding the wheel unless they wish to prevent motherhood.”[2] In Britain the satirical magazine, Punch, captured negative attitudes towards women cyclists in gentler style in its 1896 issue.

MoBikeFed comment: A fascinating article about the history of cycling and how participation in cycling and other sports affected women's dress and place in society.

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