In celebration of international women’s day, we are reflecting on the bicycle’s use and importance in suffragette movements. Bicycles provided increased freedom of transportation for some women. A Bicycle allowed women to travel quickly and independently, expanding travel options. In the 19th century, women cycling was initially seen as quite contentious, shocking and unconventional; many satirical cartoons were published decrying women on bikes, e.g.
Canadian comics artist Kate Beaton covers this in an old comic strip called Velocipede:
We love the dashing attitude on display – but of course, do not condone knocking anyone over!
Part of the emancipation of women had to do with the need for a change in attire. There were many inventions by women to support women wearing skirts both on and off the bike – with different ingenious mechanisms to pull the fabric together and apart to look ladylike while walking but to be able to cycle safely. There is a wonderful book called Bikes and Bloomers by Kat Jungnickel (available at GVPL) which goes into depth on these designs!
Here are some articles that describe women riding bicycles at the turn of the century:
How the Bicycle Paved the way for women’s rights
Revolting Daughters, Bicycles and the road to female Equality
For more local context, you can search the online photo archives of Saanich and Victoria to find photos and more of women and people with their bikes over 100 years ago.