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Bicycles and Cycling History: A Resource Guide

Women and Bicycles

During the height of the bicycling craze, the 1890s, there was much debate about whether women ought to be allowed to ride the bicycle. Arguments against women riding bicycles pointed to the bicycle as a potential corrupter of innocence.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
—Susan B. Anthony in The New York World, February 2, 1896 (Page 42, Column 3)

To find materials related to women and the bicycle use the subject headings below to browse for materials in the Library of Congress Online Catalog

Selected Print Materials

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are provided when available.

Also try using some vernacular or vocabulary specific to the time period and region.

  • Wheelwoman
  • Lady/woman Cyclist
  • Bloomerite or "new woman"
  • Radfahrer (German for cyclist)

Another research strategy is to find known female cyclists and proponents of the bicycle for women. Some examples:

  • Annie Londonderry (born Annie Kopchovsky)
  • Frances Willard. Avid cyclist, educator, temperance reformer, and women's suffragist. National president of Woman's Christian Temperance Union 1879-1898.

Digital Collections and Databases

These following digital collections are a great place to look for materials for researching women and bicycles.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.