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.
I endorse newspaper articles as an original source in researching Victorian-era America. Yet while I trust–for the most part–newspaper articles to be a reasonable representation of attitudes, circumstances, happenings, and differing opinions, I’m well aware that not everything in print is fact…at least as presented.
I came across newspaper articles mentioning Mrs. Charlotte Smith, presented as a rather ridiculous woman seeking legislation to force marriage upon the matrimony unencumbered. Three such articles follow, all of which are from credible, well-respected newspapers of the late nineteenth century. At the bottom, I’ll share more of who Mrs. Charlotte Smith was, the platforms she supported, the work she did–and cast an entirely different light on her nature than these newspaper reporters suggest.