Women on the Move

Women on the Move

The Forgotten Era of Women’s Bicycle Racing

Roger Gilles

360 pages
31 photographs, index

Hardcover

October 2018

978-1-4962-0417-2

$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

October 2018

978-1-4962-1043-2

$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

October 2018

978-1-4962-1041-8

$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The 1890s was the peak of the American bicycle craze, and consumers, including women, were buying bicycles in large numbers. Despite critics who tried to discourage women from trying this new sport, women took to the bike in huge numbers, and mastery of the bicycle became a metaphor for women’s mastery over their lives.

Spurred by the emergence of the “safety” bicycle and the ensuing cultural craze, women’s professional bicycle racing thrived in the United States from 1895 to 1902. For seven years, female racers drew large and enthusiastic crowds across the country, including Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and New Orleans—and many smaller cities in between. Unlike the trudging, round-the-clock marathons the men (and their spectators) endured, women’s six-day races were tightly scheduled, fast-paced, and highly competitive. The best female racers of the era—Tillie Anderson, Lizzie Glaw, and Dottie Farnsworth—became household names and were America’s first great women athletes. Despite concerted efforts by the League of American Wheelmen to marginalize the sport and by reporters and other critics to belittle and objectify the women, these athletes forced turn-of-the-century America to rethink strongly held convictions about female frailty and competitive spirit.

By 1900 many cities began to ban the men’s six-day races, and it became more difficult to ensure competitive women’s races and attract large enough crowds. In 1902 two racers died, and the sport’s seven-year run was finished—and it has been almost entirely ignored in sports history, women’s history, and even bicycling history. Women on the Move tells the full story of America’s most popular arena sport during the 1890s, giving these pioneering athletes the place they deserve in history.

Author Bio

Roger Gilles is a writing professor at Grand Valley State University. 
 
 

Praise

"Gilles's book is a window into a virtually unknown time in women's sports, and it's important because it adds to the history of female athletes who have overcome so many obstacles to be able to compete. It's also more evidence that women have always been more suited to sports than they've been given credit for, and that when they have the opportunity to train, they've always been just as capable as the men."—Britni de la Cretaz, Guardian

Women on the Move is a much-needed look at the history of sports and the challenges—and advancement—of women in America. A must-read for sports fans, equality advocates, and history enthusiasts.”—Kathryn Bertine, author of The Road Less Taken and documentary filmmaker of Half The Road

“Roger Gilles shines a much-deserved light on 1890s women cyclists, bringing back to life Tillie Anderson, Dottie Farnsworth, and their sisters on wheels. Thoroughly researched, this is a rollicking read—a treasure.”—Peter Joffre Nye, author of Hearts of Lions and The Fast Times of Albert Champion

“Gilles meticulously re-creates a bygone era in American professional cycling—an era forgotten no longer.”—M. Ann Hall, author of The Girl and the Game and Feminism and Sporting Bodies

“A vivid portrait of the forgotten heroines of the bicycle boom. A delightful and inspiring revelation.”—David Herlihy, author of Bicycle: The History

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments                                                                                                     
Introduction: The Terrible Swede                                                                             
Part 1. Bicycles and Bloomers
Chapter 1. Six-Day Bike Race for Women                                                                           
Chapter 2. Watch the Woman Cyclists                                                                                  
Chapter 3. After Gold and Medals                                                                                        
Part 2. Leading Ladies
Chapter 4. Riders Are Dressed in Pleasing Costumes                                                           
Chapter 5. Like Spiders on a Wall                                                                                         
Chapter 6. Lovers True                                                                                                          
Chapter 7. Girls May Pull Hair                                                                                              
Part 3. Backlash
Chapter 8. Threatened with Suspension                                                                                
Chapter 9. A Gala Event on Wheels                                                                                      
Chapter 10. Is Bicycling Immoral?                                                                                        
Chapter 11. Men versus Women                                                                                           
Chapter 12. Amazons on Wheels                                                                                           
Part 4. Rivals
Chapter 13. Girls Have a Spat!                                                                                              
Chapter 14. It Will Be Run for Blood                                                                                   
Chapter 15. They Do Not Speak                                                                                            
Chapter 16. The “Muscular Beauties”                                                                                   
Part 5. Lisette
Chapter 17. The Parisian, Unbeaten and Unafraid, Is Coming                                             
Chapter 18. Lisette and Her Lightning Rivals                                                                       
Chapter 19. The Greatest Drawing Card in Bicycle History                                                 
Part 6. Farewell to Cycliennes
Chapter 20. War on Six-Day Bicycle Races                                                                         
Chapter 21. Grand Vaudeville                                                                                               
Chapter 22. Have You Seen the Cycle Whirl?                                                                      
Epilogue: Maiden Name Known to All                                                                                 
Notes                                                                                                                          
Index                                                                                                                          
 

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