Sunday, January 6, 2013

First Bicycle Marathon for Women

“Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"Bifurcated" riding ensemble, c. 1895

First bicycle marathon for women began this day in 1896

Cycling was all the rage in the late 19th century, and 6-day endurance races were popular public spectacles. The first such race for women was held from January 6 through January 11 at Madison Square Garden in New York. The race was won by Frankie Nelson, who traveled 481 miles over the six days. Cycling gave women, both black and white, an newfound freedom of movement and necessitated a freedom from restrictive clothing.
The moment she takes her seat [a woman] knows she can’t get into harm while she is on her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free untrammeled womanhood. The bicycle also teaches practical dress reform, gives women fresh air and exercise and helps to make them equal with men in work and pleasure; and anything that does that has my good word.
 —Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1898, when asked to give her opinion on women cyclists

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