Bicycles for Women, 1896

“It is true that women heretofore, here and there, have been trying the machines in an apologetic, shamefaced sort of way, but in this year they have boldly come to the front as riders, challenging male competition, and making a fashion of that which before was an eccentricity.”

Harper’s Magazine, from Public Opinion, 16 January 1896

I found the quote above on a website with some great information and illustrations about bike riding in 1896, a Vassar college website about the year 1896.

Victorian Crescent Bicycles for Women, 1896

Both of the vintage bicycle ads in this post come from my March 1896 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal. At a time when bike riding was extremely popular with both sexes, but increasingly with women, manufacturers turned their attention to women riders. The ad above is from Western Wheel Works (you can see another of their ads at the Vassar website I linked to above), and it reads:

Crescent Bicycles are especially constructed to meet the requirements of lady riders. This is the secret of their popularity.

Manufacturers also took pains to point out that women required special bicycle saddles; the regular saddle types that men used were not appropriate for women. The following ad is from the Duplex Saddle Company, and it states that “Women must not ride the ordinary bicycle saddle – so say physicians (here the ad provides a list of journal articles to support this). All the ordinary suspension saddles and every saddle with a pommel which carries weight, are condemned by physicians as certain to produce serious and lasting troubles and injury.”

Duplex Saddle for women bicycle riders, 1896

What makes this saddle special and better for women?

“The pommel of the Duplex supports no weight, – it does not even touch the body. The hollowing out of the saddle under weight carries the pommel downward and away from all contact with the body.”

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