Etiquette for Women Cyclists Circa 1895

Putting You and Your Family Back in the Saddle.

Etiquette Woman with Bicycle

Etiquette – There was a lot going on in America in the 1890s. It was a time where women were breaking with convention and stepping out beyond the home into society, not only to work, but also to enjoy leisure time activities of their own choosing.

At the same time, bicycling became wildly popular. The 1890s is often dubbed the golden era of the bicycle. This explosion on two-wheels couldn’t have come at a better time for women. This meant freedom and mobility, a way to escape from their neighbourhoods and bike to a new job, or meet up and organize with other women who were working to continue the mid-1800s push for women’s rights, while maintaining proper etiquette.

But wait… what was this “List of Don’t” for women cyclists that came out in the New York World publication in 1895? This “etiquette advice”, from an unknown author, was likely not received well by the increasingly emancipated women of the gay 90s.

Here is the ‘proper’ etiquette list. It’s annoying, but definitely entertaining. I added my own side commentary in italics.

1. Don’t be a fright.
2. Don’t faint on the road. – At least wait until you get to the shoulder.
3. Don’t wear a man’s cap.
4. Don’t wear tight garters. – Why would anyone want to?
5. Don’t forget your toolbag
6. Don’t attempt a “century.” – Wheelies are OK.
7. Don’t coast. It is dangerous. – Someone’s mom wrote this one.
8. Don’t boast of your long rides.
9. Don’t criticize people’s “legs.” – Only their arms
10. Don’t wear loud hued leggings. – Quietly hued leggings are allowed.
11. Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.” – Could have used an illustration here.
12. Don’t refuse assistance up a hill. – Does that go for men, too?
13. Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
14. Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry. – But back off from tailgaiting the guy in front of you—pronto.
15. Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
16. Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers. – This belongs in a glossary of bicycle terms.
17. Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome. – Unlaced boots are much safer & less tiresome.
18. Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you. – That cow you’re about to come upon better be looking (see # 37).
19. Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume. – Why not? Jesus worshipped in a robe.
20. Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers. – Or a man’s cap (see # 3)
21. Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
22. Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
23. Don’t wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing. – But silk doesn’t grip well. Could be dangerous.
24. Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?” – For further advice, see #32
25. Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys. – Great idea for another list: Bicycle Slang for Boys
26. Don’t go out after dark without a male escort. – Sounds a bit on the seedy side.
27. Don’t [go] without a needle, thread and thimble. – Your male escort may want to borrow them.
28. Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match.”
29. Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back. – Brunettes and redheads are exempt.
30. Don’t allow dear little Fido to accompany you. – But Bruiser can come along.
31. Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers. – Seriously?
32. Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know. – Only with those you don’t know.
33. Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
34. Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
35. Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman. – Ignore that advice, because you are a woman.
36. Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.” – Even though the dude next to you is a cross-dresser
37. Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run. – A bull is a different story entirely.
38. Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because you ride a wheel.
39. Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground. – Aced Physics class? You’re good to go.
40. Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
41. Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty. – Can’t be sporty when wearing silk gloves anyway (see # 23).

I feel like I should end this article by inserting that orange pouty face emoticon from the iemoji collection instead of the mysterious “bike face” the etiquette advice mysterious author of this piece says women bike riders should not “cultivate”. But surely it would be more upbeat to think up a “List of Do’s” for women bicyclists in 2016. Of course, that wouldn’t be half as fun as this nutty list.

Source: List and original publisher is referenced in Mary Popova’s article from the online publication, Brain Pickings.


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