History Of the Bicycle and the Emancipation of Women

Posted by tan xiao yan on

A bicycle (human powered) is a wheeled vehicle powered entirely by the human rider, while motorbikes, mopeds, and e-bikes are not human-powered bicycles.

Most bicycles have two wheels, although some three and even four-wheeled pedal vehicles such as tricycles and handcycles may be included. Most bicycles are powered by pedals that turn cranks that link to cogs via a chain, although a variety of alternatives such as belts exist. Most bicycles have a saddle, although standing cycles (elliptigos) also exist. But since the first day it was invented, the history of the bicycle has witnessed great changes.

In April 1815, a giant volcano blasted in Indonesia which spread its volcanic dust throughout the Earth. The dust reached Britain, and the dust covered the sky of Britain for 12 months. As the sky was filled up with gray smoke, the rays of Sun didn’t reach the ground. A small ice age started. Temperature decreased. Food got over. No crop could be planted without the Sun. So, people started eating animals. Cats, Dogs etc. Then came the turn of the Horses. After Horses got finished in Britain, they had no way of transportation. The year was 1816, so no other mode of transportation was there.

History Of the Bicycle and the Emancipation of Women
from: www.ReneKMueller.com
Karl Drais, thought that what if we could make a device, riding on which we can cover more distance that walking per hour? Also, it should run by human feet. So he invented a Velocipede (which later became a Bicycle). The frame and wheels of this early bike were made of wood. He didn’t use pedals to drive the Velocipede. Instead, the rider pushed the machine along with his or her feet. Eventually, this design got copied in the USA.

In the years following, many changes had taken place to the bicycle. Around 1840, Kirkpatric Macmillan added pedals to drive a bicycle for the first time. The pedals turned the rear wheel with cranks attached to long rods. Pedals allowed the rider’s feet to remain on the ground as he or she rode. During the 1860s, two French inventors made pedals that turned the front wheel of the bicycle. Their new bike had a very iron frame and tires made of iron or wood.

Built in 1871, the ordinary had a tall wheel in front and a small wheel in back. The rider sat on a seat above the high front wheel. The ordinary moved faster than earlier bikes because of its large wheel. The big wheel also caused problems. It was hard to ride up a hill. It was also hard to get on and off the high seat. Riders often fell forward onto their heads when they tried to slow or stop the bike. All these problems made the ordinary dangerous for the rider.

The roads at that time were not good enough to drive a bicycle. Big jerks due to impact on the holes on the road making people fall down. So, they had to design a bicycle which can absorb the small potholes. That’s why they made the front wheels large and back wheel smaller. The Bigger wheels were able to absorb the shocks which are created by smaller potholes.

John Starley changed the bicycle in 1885 with the Rover safety bicycle. This bike looked similar to the bicycles of today. Most safety bicycles moved on two wheels of about the same size. A low seat between the wheels made the bike safer and easier to ride.

The first safety bicycles had solid rubber tires. Later, air-filled rubber tires were added to the design. They made for a much less bumpy ride. The safety bicycle used a gear and chain system. A chain connected gears on the back wheel to another gear attached to the pedals. Riders pushed the pedals to turn the back wheel and move the bike. Different-sized gears made it easier to pedal uphill, downhill, or on flat roads. Safety bicycles were less dangerous and more comfortable than easier bikes. Because of this, more and more people began riding bicycles.

History Of the Bicycle and the Emancipation of Women
from: www.pinterest.com
Today’s bikes have the same basic form as the safety bicycle. However, over the years, the design has changed many times. New materials make bikes stronger, faster, and lighter than before.

It can be seen that nowadays, female cyclists contribute much to the development of cycling industry and they make great achievements in both amateur and professional fields. But the position of female on the bicycle was totally different in old days. One hundred years ago, Susan B. Anthony and 19th-century women had been severely confined their entire lives. Susan once said, "I think bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Before bicycles were invented, the horse was the best convenient means of traveling around. Of course, even woman's access to horses was limited at that time. If they wanted to ride a horse, they had to ride sidesaddle, with both legs hanging off one side. In that unnatural position, women cannot ride for long distances, which promoted the idea that women were not suitable to ride a horse.

Compared with horses, it was much easier to control the bicycles. There was no more absurd excuses for a woman not to get on a bike. In order to take part in the new craze without being stopped by the risk of getting dresses stuck in the bike's chain, women riders needed to wear shorter skirts or bloomers. It was also important that they leave the house and strengthen the body by exercising.

The fact was that the brave women choosing the shorter skirts were criticized, teased by the public, and inhibited from appearing at public places. Emma Eades, one of the first women to ride a bike in London, was attacked with bricks and stones. Men and women alike demanded that she go home where she belonged and behave properly. According to a satirical poem in the U.S. bloomers were a sort of "gateway garment".

As cycling receiving an increasing popularity, a new breed of woman was endeavoring to seek cycling equality in 1890s. “The New Woman” emerge and broke away from the convention by working outside the home, or changed the traditional role of wife and mother and further became more active in social issues such as politics. The New Woman regarded herself as the equal as men and the bicycle helped her assert herself as such.

Alice Hawkins, a suffragette, cycled around Leicester promoting the women's rights movement, causing outrage by being one of the first ladies to wear pantaloons in the city. During the fight to win the vote the bicycle became not only a tool but also a symbol for the emancipation of women.

History Of the Bicycle
from: www.thebikeseat.com
As women learned to ride bicycles they not only gain strength but also expanded the scope of activities beyond the neighborhoods where they lived. Moreover, they discovered a brand new sense of freedom that was deprived by fashions of the Victorian era as well as by Victorian sensibilities. The restrictive clothing of the era including corsets, multi-layered skirts worn over petticoats or hoop, and long sleeved shirts with high collars inhibited freedom of movement and in the 1890s. Nevertheless, cycling called for a more practical and convenient form of dress, and large billowing skirts and corsets started to give way to bloomers. Although bloomers first appeared decades earlier, the cycling craze to some extent accelerated the changes in woman’s attire from cumbersome style to rational style that was beneficial to riding.

Eventually, the battle over dress reform that mainly fought on the battlefield of cycling attire, and the popularity of cycling among women, forever helped to change public perceptions of female athleticism and proper female behavior. The prim and proper gentility expected of women yielded to consensus that women, too, could get themselves on the bicycle sensibly dressed for the activity and not only retain, but even enhance, their femininity. Once hidden under yards of fabric, women cyclists shed their old skins and emerged, quite literally, as“new women.”

Even when faced with this overwhelming social pressure and doubt, female cycling groups persevered and eventually made fundamental changes in society's view. Women did get out on their bikes and, to everyone's surprise, didn't faint or commit awful moral bully. As a matter of fact, they discovered what everyone who rode a bike learned: cycling makes you more fit and more mentally healthy. Therefore, women gained increasing self-satisfaction, better health status, and, as a bonus, won the freedom from the confinement of their originally prim clothing and its attendant social bonds.

The day women refuse to accept inequality, inequality will cease. The day women walk away from abuse (and help each other walk), abusers will have no one to lay their hands on. It always takes two to tango, and YOU are always the one in charge of your life, even if it’s through something as simple as using meditation to change your perception of circumstances.

No one can stop us but ourselves. And as for the how? YOU, as a singular human being, can stand up for yourself, your mother, your sisters, and any woman you see mistreated in any way. Get other women to do the same. Pay it forward. Rinse repeat. Educate your daughters to be powerful decision makers in the world. Unite in such a way that men are scared of our fury should they ever hurt a woman, no matter who or where she is.