Rules for Lady Cyclist, Circa 1895

Historically, the bicycle had a tremendous impact on empowering women during the 19th and early 20th Century. However, like many of the roads at the time, the process was pretty bumpy.

The blog Brain Pickings has unearthed a copy of a 1895 New York World newspaper article that details the 41 ‘Don’t’s for female cyclists. Brain Pickings says it best: “Equal parts amusing and appalling, the list is the best (or worst, depending on you look at it) thing since the Victorian map of woman’s heart.”

A few of my personal favorites include:

  • Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
  • Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  • Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”
  • Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
  • Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.

Apparently, a lady’s bloomers was an area of significant concern:

  • Don’t wear a garden party hat with your bloomers.
  • Don’t ask “What do you think of my bloomers?”.
  • Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  • Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.

However, while this list might seem ignorant and out-of-date, there are still some useful gems for today’s cyclist (regardless of gender):

  • Don’t faint on the road. [Always a useful reminder]
  • Don’t forget your toolbag.
  • Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  • Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
  • Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman. [Or don’t ignore the laws, regardless of who you are.]
  • Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily. [Cycling should be fun; take it easy and enjoy it.]

To check out the list in it entirety and more content like this, check out Brain Pickings.


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