Wheels of Change; How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy is published by a little known publishing company, National Geographic (wait, maybe I’ve heard of it a time or two). While most of the readers of this blog probably haven’t had the opportunity to take a 400 level class on Women in America Since 1870 taught by a PhD specializing in women’s sports history, if they have really followed this blog over the last year they will have already come across most of the revelations in this book. Now saying that, this would be a great book for anyone who is interested in bicycle history! Written mainly for the pre-teen and high school audience, the pictures and style should appeal to everyone even if it's just a refresher.
Denver, Colorado, circa 1905
We see old friends like Bloomer, Kopchovsky and Pope (that’s Albert Pope not “The Pope”) Macy covers both the early evolution of the bike, and the Woman’s Rights Movement. This bike also introduces us to many other great members of cycling past. There are great photos of rare bikes like a sidesaddle Penny-Farthing and African American cyclists of the time. This book also gathers together many great quotes. Including my favorite from Charlotte Smith (Brooklyn Eagle, August 20, 1896) “Many a girl has come to her ruin through a spin on a country road”; everyone in rural Northern Michigan knows all about the evil of a country road! And who can blame her or those of a similar mind for worrying about women once they started dressing like men! Oh my! Though I bet those souls are once again rolling over in their graves with the current bicycle chic movement.
Lady on the right has a sidesaddle bike
Anyway! This is a great book that links the importance of the bicycle to what we consider the modern role of women in our society. It may soft peddle (pun intended) the role of the bicycle in general society, but that is not a detractor for what it offers. We strongly recommend this book.