“Bicycling by young women has helped to swell the ranks of reckless girls who finally drift into a standing army of outcast women of the United States. The bicycle is the devil’s advance agent morally and physically in thousands of instances.” — Charlotte Smith
Despite being an early feminist and strong advocate for women’s right, Smith looked over the landscape of cycling in the late 1800s and saw nothing but trouble for women. The sidesaddle bike didn’t really work out — two pedals on the same side rarely does — and that meant women started wearing pants — pants! — so they could ride these devil machines without getting tangled into the wheels. God knows where that would lead. Oh right, to today.
Sue Macy covers Charlotte Smith and a whole lot more on the subject of bikes and women in tidy, crisp book from National Geographic’s press, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom, who cover is graced by Madge Lessing, above. You might want to check it out.