The University of Arizona


Audrey Louise Lopez


Before the bicycle, women were prisoners in their own homes and bodies, their indenties were tied to the domestic realm. Anxieties about the bicycle arose out of tensions of the changing roles of women. Much of the cultural comment focused on the New Woman and the bicycle. In the era of technological modernity from 1890-1900, New Women seized the opportunity to ascribe individuality to a mass produced object such as the bicycle in order to spread the idea of freedom for women to the masses. The New Women’s belief in gender equality, independence and increased mobility out of the home had a major effect on women’s self-concept. The identity of the New Woman was a driver of materialism which helped women become participants in the public sphere. Men feared the swift away from traditional gender roles would have a negative impact on marriages, society and culture. At the core of men’s fear was the bicycle was giving women more of a right to choose how to think, behave, and make their own choices about their bodies.

 In this essay I will argue that mass production of the bicycle planted the idea and desire in masses of women’s equality which is evident from the male establishment’s attempt to force women back into traditional domestic roles outside of the public sphere.

Full Text:



“A Boy Bicycle Thief Confesses.” New York Times. August 21, 1895, 2.

“Al Rededor del Mundo.” El Fronterizo. August 15, 1896, 1.

“Bicycle Tournament.” The Border Vidette. September 23, 1899,1.

“Bloomer Girl Stole His Turkey.” The Allentown Leader. November 27, 1895, 2.

“Insanity and the Bicycle.” Sacramento Daily Record-Union. January 3, 1897, 10.

“Lunacy in England.” New York Times. August 12, 1894, 4.

“Morals of the Wheelman.” New York Times. May 16, 1899, 1.

“Sound Advice about Exercise.” Arizona Daily Star. June 03, 1891, 1.

“The Sager Pneumatic Bicycle Seat.” Harper's Magazine 92 (1895-1896), 70.

“The World Awheel.”Munsey’s Magazine (May 1896): 131-59. Print.

“What We have Come For.” La mujer moderna. San Antonio, Texas. December 1909.

“Wheel Eqtiquette.” The Los Angeles Times. July 28, 1895, 24.

“Widows May Ride the Wheel.” The World. May 17, 1896, 30.

Anonymous. “An Ibsen Play Enacted— “A Doll’s Home” at a Matinee.” The Sun, December 22,1889, 9.

Armstrong, Tim. Modernism, Technology, and the Body: A Cultural Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Bly, Nellie Jr. “Around the World in Bloomers on a Bicycle.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 27, 30.

Clagett, Sarah O. Bicycle-Skirt Fastener, US Patent, 578,444, filed March 31, 1896, and issued March 9, 1897.

Cunningham, Patricia A. Reforming Women's Fashion, 1850-1920 : Politics, Health, and Art. Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2003.

Dale, Alan. “A Doll’s Home.” The Evening World, December 23, 1889, 2.

Dinnerstein, Leonard and Reimers, David M. Ethnic Americans: A History of Immigration. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

Doyle, Conan Arthur. “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist.” Strand Magazine. January 1904,3.

Ecob, Helen G. “A New Philosophy of Fashion,” Chautauquan 31. Sept. 1900.

Freidenfelds, Lara. The Modern Period Menstruation in Twentieth-century America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,.2009.

Garvey, Gruber Ellen. “Reframing the Bicycle: Advertising-Supported Magazines and Scorching Women.” American Quarterly 47, no.1 (1995): 66-101. doi:10.2307/2713325.

Hammond, Richard. “Progress and Flight: An Interpretation of the American Cycle Craze of The 1890s.” Journal of Social History 5, no. 2 (Winter, 1971-1972): 235-257.

Herlihy, David V. Bicycle: The History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Johnson, Annie W. “The Unnatural and Unartistic Waist.” The Women’s Tribune. December 19, 1891.

Kellogg, John Harvey. Ladies’ Guide in Health and Disease: Girlhood, Maidenhood, Wifehood, Motherhood. Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Pub. Co., 1891.

Lord, Frances Henrietta, trans. The Doll’s House: A Play. New York: D. Appleton & co.,1894.

Lumpkin, Angela and Jenkins, Jane. “Basic Instruction Programs: A Brief History,” JOPERD 64. August 1993.

Macy, Sue. Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom. Washington: National Geographic, 2011.

Maines, Rachel. The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria, “the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Malchow, Charles William. The Sexual Life: A Scientific Treatise Designed for Advanced Students and the Professions, Embracing the Natural Sexual Impulse, Normal Sexual Habits and Propagation, Together with Sexual Physiology and Hygiene. St. Louis: C. V Mosby, 1923.

Napheys, George A.M., M.D., The Physical Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife, and Mother. 1884.

Painter, Irvin Nell. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987.

Parke, Kate, Bicycle Lock, US Patent, 436,800, filed April 28, 1890, and issued September 23, 1890.

Peiss, Kathy. Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of the-Century New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986.

Prendergast, James F M.D. “The Bicycle for Women.” The American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children 34. no.1 (1896):245.

Rosenberg-Smith, Carroll. Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1895.

Rubinstein, David. “Cycling in the 1890s.” Victorian Studies 21, no. 1 (Autumn, 1977): 44-71


Santa Fe New Mexican. Advertisement. September 8, 1896, 2.

Smethurst, Peter. The Bicycle: Towards a Global History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Smith, Charlotte. “Is Bicycling Immoral.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. August 19, 1896, 30.

Taylor, Michael. "Rapid Transit to Salvation: American Protestants and the Bicycle in the Era of the Cycling Craze." The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 9, no. 3 (2010): 337-63.

Verbrugge, Martha H. “Able‐Bodied Womanhood: Personal Health and Social Change in Nineteenth‐ Century Boston.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Walsh, Stewart A. “The Rev. Dr. A. Stewart Walsh Replies to the Rescue League.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. August 20, 1896, 30-31.

Wharton, Edith. Summer. The Floating Press, 1917.

Wheeler, Edward J. ed. , “The Bicycle Face.” The Literary Digest 11, no.19 (1895):548.

Willard, Frances. A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle. New York: F.H. Revell Company,1895.

Wood-Allen, Mary. What a Young Girl Ought to Know. 1897.

Wray, Harry J. Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2005.

Zheultin, Peter. Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary Ride. New York: Citadel, 2007.