Cross-dressing c 1910. Courtesy of Antigonish Heritage Museum. Restoration: Betty Cameron
The history of women’s right to ride a bike coincided with the modern women’s movement in the 19th century. In 1895, Frances Willard, the long time President of the early American Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)and World’s WCTU wrote the book. How I Learned to Ride a Bicycle. She was 53 years old and this was just another addition to her “Do Everything” mantra – dress reform, prison reform, women in the pulpit, and of course women’s suffrage and temperance.
Willard led the charge in challenging the opposition that women on bicycles was not ladylike, or worse, that it either led to unnatural (monstrous) sexual appetites or debilitated healthy childbearing. A theatre piece by Toronto performance artist Evalyn Parry, called SPIN, leads off with a quote from Frances Willard on the bicycle as a vehicle for healthy living and social change: http://evalynparry.com/spin/
See also the YouTube trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOsMHCDpc6Q
I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world upon whose spinning wheel we must learn to ride or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair.
– Frances Willard, 1895