Love this bike racing image from Wheels of Change


“It’s hard to grasp the full extent of the bicycle’s impact on Americans in the late 19th century – particularly female Americans. Imagine a population imprisoned by their very clothing; the stiff corsets, heavy skirts, and voluminous petticoats that made it difficult to take a deep breath, let alone exercise. Add to that the laws and social conventions that cemented a man’s place as head of the household and holder of the purse strings. How suffocated women must have felt. And how liberated they must have been as they pedalled their wheels toward new horizons.

Wheels of Change looks at how the bicycle took America by storm in the 1880s and ‘90s, and especially at the ways in which it changed women’s lives. It also explores the bicycle culture of the era with short features, appearing after each chapter, that highlight the impact of the two-wheeler on everyday life. You’ll meet celebrity cyclists of the day, learn cycling slang, read about cycling songs and magazines, and see bicycles used in advertisements for everything from carpets to candy and baking flour.”

Excerpt from the Introduction to Wheels Of Change: How Women Rode The Bicycle To Freedom (With A Few Flat Tires Along The Way) by Sue Macy, National Geographic Society, 2011,

Reviewed here.

4 thoughts on “Love this bike racing image from Wheels of Change

  1. Whoops, hit the wrong key.

    My goodness, those HUSSIES, cycling around wearing next to nothing! This must be 1890s pornography.

    I’ve often wondered how in the world women survived with the restrictive clothing they wore. You see very old photos of women pioneering the West, and they’re wearing huge skirts, voluminous undergarments, restrictive corsets… it must have been enormously detrimental to their health, not to mention maddening.

  2. I bought this book last month – LOVE IT. I’m planning to use this theme quite a bit with my Girl Guide unit, and maybe try and develop a challenge badge to submit to the provincial council. We need more girls and young women on bikes, discovering their power and freedom, and they need to know they have over a century of history to draw on.

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