In the late 19th century, cycling was at the forefront of movements for women’s equality. Women embraced the independence & the freedom of cycling &, despite public & media consternation, shed voluminous dresses & up to seven pounds of underwear. After 50 years of campaigning & the ‘Rational Dress Movement,’ the wider availability of bicycles gave impetus to the women’s suffrage movement.
“(Bicycling) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” civil rights campaigner Susan B Anthony, New York World 1896.
Here are a couple of links to academics working in this area who inspired the show & costumes:
Sheila Hanlon’s Bicycle Face – a Guide to Victorian Cycling Diseases
Dr Kat Jungknickel – a short, film about Victorian Convertible Cyclewear
Today, young women in the UK tend to stop cycling at puberty & the majority never re-start. In an inverted parallel to the late 1800s, freedom, independence & economy are outweighted by issues of appearance, unfashionable & uncool clothing, helmet hair & getting sweaty, as well as safety fears, traffic & worries about fitness.
Encouraging women to ride bikes is, owever, a major frontier in improving health & encouraging healthy lifestyles; promoting sustainability, reducing traffic & air pollution. Blazing Saddles is marking the transformations & hopes to be part of the change.
We are delighted to be the recipients of a National Lottery Heritage Grant for a Sussex-wide project, from 2022-2024, to explore the ground-breaking changes for women brought by the widespread availability of bicycles. More info HERE