“Let me tell you what I think about bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” -Susan B. Anthony (1896)
Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) documents the rise of the bicycle in American culture and the social impact it had on women. Cycling was fun, good for your health (once they fixed the design so you wouldn’t take a header!), and provided a newfound sense of freedom for women around the country. Not everyone was a proponent of women and cycling, though; opposers like Charlotte Smith believed the bicycle was the “devil’s advange agent” and would cause young ladies to plummet into a moral downward spiral. Thankfully, those ideas petered out rather quickly. I found it fascinating how much influence the bicycle had on everything from fashion to sports to health and how far women were travelling (hundreds of miles at a time!). This was definitely a great read whether you’re a sports fan, cycling enthusiast, or woman’s history buff.