I had a great deal of fun writing a character who loved her bicycle–and residents in her town weren’t so sure about her mode of transportation. A newspaperman used his “power of the pen” to openly criticize what he deemed to be a breach of proper conduct every time Sophia Sorensen (a “Lady Lawyer”) took to her bicycle.
The Bicycle Craze of the late nineteenth century began in the 1870s and persisted through the turn of the century. Notice the snippet, below, from The Scranton Republican newspaper, poking a bit of fun at the social expectations of the day–saying proper introductions could be dispensed with, when necessary for a “wheelman” (bicyclist) to exercise safety.
DRIVING OUR YOUTH CRAZY
To be held down to a snail’s progress of four miles an hour by steady toe-and-heel tramping, and then suddenly to be gifted with the power of flying through the air at the rate of fourteen miles an hour with no more exertion than that entailed in walking–this was intoxication that at one time promised to send our youth crazy. (Macmillan’s Magazine, 1898) ~ Quoted by Manners and Morals of Victorian America by Wayne Erbsen, page 12.
BICYCLING WITH A LADY
A man bicycling with a woman should extend to her all the courtesies practiced when riding or driving with her, such as allowing her to set the pace, taking the lead on unfamiliar roads and in dangerous places, riding on the side nearest obstacles, etc. (1904). ~ Manners and Morals of Victorian America by Wayne Erbsen, page 13.
A marked feature of social life, is the introduction of the bicycle. No woman of good sense will practice scorching [speeding]. Neither will she offend the law by riding on the sidewalk, or donning an immodest costume, or make new acquaintances while on her wheel. One becomes intoxicated with delight at the swift rush in the open, and forgets convention. Objectionable intimacies have been formed between riders whose acquaintance began in the street (Good Housekeeping, 1898). ~ Quoted by Manners and Morals of Victorian America by Wayne Erbsen, page 12.
BIKE MANNERS; WHEELING ETIQUETTE
THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT: BLOOMERS
BICYCLE CLUBS AND MARRIAGE EPIDEMIC
SOME DONT’S FOR WOMEN CYCLISTS
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Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC