There’s a lovely vintage Schwinn bicycle sitting outside Flowers for Fleur in my soon to be released novel. I know, because I placed it there.
And then I researched bicycles in the 1950s, and delved further into the history of women’s bikes, only to discover the enormous battle women fought to ride a bicycle.
The first bicycles, invented in the early 1890s (known as velocipedes), were for men only, of course. But that didn’t stop women. By riding them, they discovered a new type of freedom, instead of being accompanied by a male everywhere they went, either by foot, horse or carriage.
However, it was known at the time that some men opposed women riding bicycles for different reasons, some being:
• Riding astride a bike was unfeminine
• The bicycle was thought of as a sexual threat – purely because it was believed that if women went around straddling something, they would start having orgasms all over the place!
• It was believed the bicycle would rattle women’s innards and leave them vulnerable to everything from tuberculosis to gout.
• There was also that troublesome “bicycle face”, the expression of concentration that would hinder them from looking beautiful
• Not to forget that they could become bowlegged from too much pedalling.
• there were a group of people who thought bicycles were “of the devil”. They would impede any woman on a bicycle
But then, it is reported, some men changed their tune and appeared in favour of women riding bicycles based on the shapeliness of the legs and ankles of the female cyclists!
And along came advertising for women’s bicycles…
Who is this advertising aimed at? Sex sells, right?
And what of the men in bicycle advertising?
I was a very active child, which continued well into my twenties. But my most favourite thing in the world to do was to ride my bike (when I wasn’t playing sport). My mum and dad bought me a green Malvern Star Dragster for my 8th birthday, onto which I would peg a flap of cardboard onto the frame, touching the spokes, so it sounded like a Volkswagen when I rode. In my teenage years, I bought myself a men’s ten speed racer, AKA The black beast. I rode it to university for 3 years, up and down the hills, and peddled hard up the very long, steep incline to the campus. Coming home was a dream as I coasted the down long incline, only to peddle hard again to conquer the waves of hills.
There’s no disputing that the bicycle is the most efficient machine on earth! I am forever thankful to French nobleman Comte de Sivrac, who built the first bicycle, called the Velocipede, in 1791 . It had two wheels, a saddle and was foot powered. Another bicycle was invented in 1817 in Germany by Baron Von Drais. This one was made of wood and had a steerable front wheel without a pedal.
When I am no longer able to drive a car, this will be me…
Julieann Wallace is a published author and illustrator, continually inspired by the gift of imagination and the power of words that can create change to reach out to others. She is a self-confessed tea ninja, has a quirky cat named Claude Monet, and has a passion for music, art and sport. She lives Queensland, Australia, and has discovered she is unable to type with chocolate in her hand.
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March 28th is set for the release date of my new novel under the pen name of Amelia Grace.
In case you were wondering…