Bicycles had a revolutionary impact on the women’s movement – they promised freedom to women long accustomed to relying on men for transportation. Suffragist Frances E. Willard once said, “I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world.”
Culturally, women were expected to stay home to focus on domesticity and motherhood. The bicycle afforded women an accepted way to be outside as part of society – including when it came to business and politics. Bicycles came to symbolize the “New Woman” of the late 19th century. Through simple mobility, they helped to accelerate women’s rights.
American feminist Susan B. Anthony, who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement, called the bicycle the "freedom machine."
“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.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragist and leading figure of the women’s rights movement, echoed Anthony’s sentiments: “The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect, and self-reliance and make the next generation more vigorous of mind and of body.”
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