Women on the Move: Cycling and the Rational Dress Movement

Cycling History

On the evening of October 9, 1893, at a prayer-meeting of the High Street Methodist Church in Binghamton, New York, Samuel Stanley rose to address the congregation. The reason? The purchase of a bicycle by Mrs Burrows, a widow and active worker in the church. Stanley, warming to his subject, denounced cycling as unladylike, unchristian, and a disgrace to the church, and the pastor, Reverend John Bradshaw, sided with him on the issue.[1]

Three years later in 1896, Charlotte Smith and Virginia N. Lount of the Women’s Rescue League issued a resolution in which they bewailed the “great curse … inflicted on the people of this country because of the present bicycle craze.” Not only did they view imprudent use of the bicycle as a cause of “the diseases peculiar to women,” but “immoderate bicycling” was “to be deplored because of the evil associations and opportunities offered by cycling sports.”

“The bicycle,” opined…

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2 responses to “Women on the Move: Cycling and the Rational Dress Movement”

  1. Interesting that the article covers women cyclists from the time of the first safety bicycle in the 1880’s, but before then there only existed the penny farthing (high wheeler). I sometimes ride one of these and the only clothes I am comfortable in are stretchable exercise pants so it would have been interesting to see what women wore on these.


    • Lol. I’m looking at your gravatar pic and trying to imagine you on a penny farthing–no wonder you never get bored in life! I LOVE it! You must be a real conversation starter.

      I experimented with only wearing skirts on the farm for a while (not for religious reasons, but for fashion reasons). My goats kept stepping on my hems when I milked them and on the muddiest days they’d jump up to kiss me. I don’t know what those girls wore comfortably on their bikes but for the time being I wear pink overalls.

      Liked by 1 person

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