Is it surprising that in the 1890s conservatives panicked at visions of women riding alone, with other women, or with unsuitable men, and campaigned to stop them? Some claimed that women would damage themselves by acquiring a “bicycle face,” or would get sexual pleasure from bicycling — and thus ruin their reproductive capacities. When women and girls first rode bicycles in large numbers, they celebrated their new freedom to move around in the world. Susan B. Anthony thought bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Other suffragists praised bicycling as a road to fuller citizenship for women: women would travel more widely on their own, and would learn a larger sense of responsibility to their fellow travelers. This PSP program will ask audiences to consider how bicycling and other means of mobility have affected history and our own levels of physical activity.
Ellen Gruber Garvey, Ph.D.
Professor of English, New Jersey City University
Ellen Gruber Garvey is the author of two prize-winning books, The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture (Oxford U P), and Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (Oxford UP, 2013). She has written for CNN, The Washington Post, New York Times Disunion blog, Slate, The Forward, and The Root. She recently retired as Professor of English at New Jersey City University. She talks about women and bicycling on Facebook, and blogs about scrapbooks.
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