How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

Did you know that back in the 1890’s there were rules, and lots of them for women bicycle riders? Here are a few examples of said rules taken from the Omaha Daily Bee :

  1. 1. Don’t carry a flask
  2. 2. Don’t say “feel my muscle.”
  3. 3. Don’t powder your face on the road
  4. 4. Don’t imagine everyone is looking at you.


And believe it or not, there are many, many more dont’s!

In the YALSA winning book for Excellence in Nonfiction, Wheels of Change; How Woman Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) award winning writer, Sue Macy will guide you through the evolution of the bicycle, its surprising impact on women’s place in society, and some ill-fated bumps along the way.

The very first problem facing women bicyclists was that their clothing literally made riding a bike dangerous, whether it was the corset that restricted their breathing, or the long dresses that would literally cause life threatening injuries by getting caught up in the bicycle.

 This, of course, led to an uprising in the way woman wanted to dress and also led to inventiveness from women that inspired hundreds of US patents in the 1880s and 90s, like the patent received by Sarah C. Clagett for her Bicycle-Skirt Fastener, she said, “The object of my invention is to afford a cheap, simple, and effective means for holding down the skirt of a lady’s dress while riding the bicycle.”

Filled with memorable photographs of original bicycles, vintage advertisements and postcards from some the earliest bicycle meets, like the Springfield Bicycle Club of 1881 that when they held their first tournament in 1883, (they had over 20,000 spectators)  Wheels of Change brings the history of this time period alive by putting into context what the invention of the bicycle really did for women.  At first it simply gave them a mode of independent transportation, but later it helped transform the women’s movement and even played a part in women gaining their right to vote!

We were lucky enough to have Sue spend time with us at ALA Midwinter and after meeting her and seeing how the librarians responded to her book, I knew this book would be a winner- of course it wasn’t until late Monday night as she and I waited, and waited and waited for our luggage at Newark Airport that I was able to congratulate her!

Let us know if you were lucky enough to have met Sue Macy at ALA, Midwinter, and I really do hope you will share this fascinating title with your young female readers and remind them just how passionately and tirelessly women have forged through tough times and how they triumphed even with a few flat tires along the way.

For more about award-winning author Sue Macy visit her website www.suemacy.com or read her interview with YALSA from December 2011.

Hold on to your handlebars!!

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction…

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