The introduction of the bicycle played an important role in women’s liberation during the late nineteenth century. Becoming widely popular during the 1880s, the bicycle gave women a sense of freedom they had never had before. Women cyclists proved to themselves and to others that women were not frail, timid creatures wholly dependent on men to help them. They demonstrated their physical strength, competence, and independence.
While more daring women wore practical bloomers or even bicycle suits with pants that wrapped tightly around the ankles while riding, many women adhered to societal convention and wore long skirts, which had a tendency to get tangled in the chain and wheels.
Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.
~ Susan B. Anthony, New York World, 1896