Though American Victorian women took to the safety bicycle in droves, newspaper and public notices of the day show that women on bicycles were not widely accepted. A public service announcement from The Woman’s Rescue League proclaimed that women on bicycles were immoral, vulgar, disease-ridden, and unwomanly. Such attitudes didn’t keep women from their bicycles, and with the advent of the new Safety Bicycle, women such as my character, Sophia Sorensen (Sophia’s Leap-Year Courtship), took to cycling and had no interest in forfeiting the exercise and transportation.
OBSERVATIONS: WIDTH OF A WOMAN’S SKIRT
The humor in a newspaper columnist’s observations taught me plenty about a man’s attitude regarding the width of women’s skirts, comparing the tight fit of the day’s fashions to the wrapping of a mummy or a soaked bathing suit clinging to the unfortunate woman’s form. He infers that the pursuit of fashion is so all-important that the wearers sacrifice comfort, modesty, safety, decency, the capacity to go anywhere by both carriage or the power of one’s own two feet. The Victorian humor in this brief piece published in 1875 is evident!
You’re likely familiar with Victorian-era “bathing costumes”–puffy dresses with pantaloons that still leave much to the imagination, thereby protecting theÂ Victorian sense of propriety and decency. Inside this article, I share images of men’s bathing suits, attitudes (about bathing suits) expressed in United States newspapers of the day, and informative glimpses into a man’s view of a woman’s reasons for bathing in the sea before an audience…or not. A romantic tragedy on Coney Island in 1875 illustrates the dangers of the Victorian’s passion with immersing themselves in the sea.