March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month, the League of American Bicyclists will be featuring profiles and stories about the women who have advanced bicycling in the United States. What follows below is the League’s Communications Director, Carolyn Szczepanski’s introduction to the Women’s History Month series.
It may be the most famous quote about the role of bicycling in women’s history. In 1896, Susan B. Anthony — one of the most important leaders in the women’s suffrage movement — shared her perspective on bicycling with intrepid reporter, Nellie Bly.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” she said. “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.”
Anthony wasn’t alone. Her friend and fellow suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, wrote an entire article for the American Wheelman praising the bicycle for encouraging the building of “good roads” and increasing people’s mobility. Most importantly, though: “The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect and self-reliance,” she wrote, “and make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.”
There’s certainly no denying the important role of bicycles in advancing women’s freedom, mobility and position in society. In fact, at the 2012 National Women’s Bicycling Forum, our opening keynote came from Sue Macy, author of “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom.” Since then, though, we started thinking about the other side of the coin: How have women influenced the history of the bike movement?
Well, what better time than Women’s History Month!
Carolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League’s blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women’s Bicycling Summit and launched the League’s newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.
Speaking of women on bikes, mark your calendars for May 5th and check back soon for details on Higher Gear’s 2013 Women’s Cycling Clinic.