Woman Riding Bicycles in the Late 1800s

Your great grandmother could have been one of those ladies in the late 1800s who gained their mobile freedom by riding a bicycle. Yes, ladies had carriages, wagons and horses, but a personal bike … that was something else!!

As women learned to ride bicycles they not only gained physical mobility that broadened their horizons beyond the neighborhoods in which they lived, they discovered a new-found sense of freedom of movement, a freedom previously circumscribed by the cumbersome fashions of the Victorian era as well as by Victorian sensibilities.

Women’s fashion did have to change to ride a bike. The bloomers, or loose fitting pants, became increasingly popular. Many in society frowned upon such attire, but the freedom a bicycle provided had too much allure for most and old fashion standards were discarded.

in 1896 Susan B. Anthony told the New York World’s Nellie Bly that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

What is amazing is what society felt was the best behavior for female bike riders. In 1895, there was even published listings of bad behavior for ladies on bicycles.

Amazing women survived at all on a bike.

  • Don’t forget your toolbag.
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  •  Don’t faint on the road.
  • Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  • Don’t wear jewelry while on a bike.
  • Don’t wear tight garters.
  • Don’t race.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  • Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
  • Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
  • Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  • Don’t go out without a needle, thread and thimble.
  • Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  • Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
  • Don’t throw your legs over the handlebar and coast down the hill.
  • Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.

Photos: Ladies on bicycles wearing bloomers.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Females Wearing Trousers

Women as Businesswomen

Finding Female Ancestors

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