Initiate an Adventure: A warrior woman embraces the things that support her natural growth and wellness. With support, she boldly steps outside her comfort zone, ready for the next adventure.
When I saw this photo, I knew this woman was adventurous and bold. She also seems ready to push hard against some societal boundaries of the times. She might be thinking “I will persevere” as she stops for a moment with her bicycle to reflect.
In my research, I learned that the bicycle played a huge role in the first wave of feminism. The bicycle was invented in the early 1800’s but it gained popularity around 1890, first with the upper classes and then finally with the working class as it became more affordable. For women, the bicycle brought a new independence with the ability to explore the world outside the home unchaperoned. Most suffragettes were avid cyclists and it allowed them to meet and organize. In the words of Susan B. Anthony:
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
At the same time, women started to seek freedom from the restrictive dress of the Victorian Era. There was good reason to rebel against the heavy fabrics, tight corsets, bustles, hoop skirts, and extravagant ornamentation that made physical activity difficult. In 1881, some women in London gathered to form the “Rational Dress Society” declaring that clothing needed to meet the following criteria:
Freedom of Movement
Absence of pressure over any part of the body
No more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed.
Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience
Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time
Women’s new found love of bicycling and their adoption of more comfortable and practical clothes to go with it met with a lot of resistance at first especially as it came to symbolize the suffragette movement but once women had access to more physical activities and freedom of movement there was no turning back.
Today, bicycles still play an important role in empowering women and girls in developing countries. Organization like World Bicycle Relief provide bicycles that help young women travel the distances to schools and participate in educational programs.
This story also brought something to my mind about the history of women’s clothing as a method of control and containment to prevent any expression that steps outside the cultural, societal, and patriarchal system. As someone who has always had a paradoxical fascination with fashion and adornment, it’s a topic that calls out to be explored in more depth.
To read more about the role of the bicycle in the advances women made in the late 1800’s: