Monday, January 24, 2011

Women and Bikes in southern California

Back in November Jeff and I took his kids to see his folks in Southern California (they live in Escondido). We make this short trek every year, the week of Thanksgiving. There’s lots of down time; time to just sit back and relax, read, watch a movie. But we also make plans for a day or two to head out and take in the sites and sounds of the area.

This last November Jeff’s parents took us to the island of Coronado to see the historic Hotel del Coronado. The hotel has an ice-skating rink around the holidays and while the rink is fairly small, it’s right on the beach, which is kind of amazing. While you glide around in circles on the ice (or attempt to glide as is the case with me) you can look out over the waves and seabirds and sand literally a hop, skip, and a jump away.

Afterwards we had lunch in the downtown shopping area. It was while we were there that I stumbled upon this  lovely exhibit, “Bicycles & Bloomers: Women’s Emancipation and the Bicycle.”  at the town’s small, historic museum. It was a delight to find something like this in the middle of our family holiday.

The exhibit detailed how the rise of bicycling as a means of transportation led to a revolution in the way women dressed. And while there was resistance at first, people didn’t want to see women wearing pants!, eventually more practical forms of dress became acceptable “women’s wear”. 

I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it must have been to be getting ready to set out on your bike but only after tightening your corset and pulling on layers and layers of skirts. A bicycle was my primary means of transportation for three and a half years of my life (up until about six months ago when I bought a used car) and the way I dressed for the day was heavily determined by how much bike riding was ahead of me.

I'll end with a quote from Susan B. Anthony: "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling…I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”


  1. That sounds like a really awesome exhibition.

  2. it was! it felt like I'd somehow fallen down a hole and ended up right back in Oakland.