As we begin Women’s History Month, we thought what better way to celebrate women in cycling than to remind ourselves of certain female figures who paved the way for women in cycling today.
Brief History of Women in Cycling
Did you know that cycling became an emblem of women’s independence in the 19th and 20th centuries? Finally, women were able to transport themselves without needing a man, giving them more freedom and self-reliance. Not only was this the start of the women’s independence movement, but also a movement of recognising cycling as a competitive sport for women (it still took 100 years for this to be fully recognised though!).
In the mid-1800s women’s cycling became increasingly popular and normalised, with the design of the bloomers making cycling a more comfortable experience for women (just imagine cycling in a long skirt... no thanks).
Although women had been cycling for over 100 years, cycling was not officially recognised as a women’s sport until 1984, and was still overlooked into the 1990s!
5 Women Who Changed the Future of Cycling
Annie ‘Londonderry’ Kopchovsky
In the late 1800s, Annie did not deem herself a women’s rights activist nor an ambassador of women in cycling. It was only when two men claimed that a women could not manage to cycle around the world while earning enough money for herself that she decided to prove them wrong, becoming a widely recognised women’s rights and women’s cycling activist in doing so. She cycled around the globe in 15 months and her trip was named ‘the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman’. She made a huge impact on the attitudes towards women’s capabilities and women’s cycling. Hats off Annie!
(Image from https://www.wiredforadventure.com)
Kittie Knox was a young black woman in the late 1800s and the first African American to be granted a place in the League of American Wheelmen (a league of cyclists). She experienced intense discrimination due to her race and gender yet continued to race. Without realising, by wearing men’s clothing to cycle in, she paved the way for women being able to wear cycling shorts today!
(Image from https://www.bostonglobe.com)
Here we have the first woman to infiltrate a men’s race!...Well, she did it undercover but got found out. It proved to everyone that women had the ability to partake in competitive races, paving the way for women in competitive cycling.
(Image from https://www.travelemiliaromagna.it)
In the 1930s, Nora was an amazing female cyclist who nearly beat all the men in a 50-mile race, using only a single-speed bike unless she could borrow a men’s geared bike. She proved once again that women should be recognised in the cycling industry. Unfortunately, her cycling career was cut short by the start of WW2.
(Image from https://www.thestar.com)
Beryl was a British cyclist who won countless races and broke records that even male cyclists couldn’t achieve – something that truly changed the way women were viewed in cycling. She won 14 medals at the road and track World Championships in the 1960s and 70s and was the best female cyclist in the UK for 25 years! So impressive.
(Image from https://pezcyclingnews.com)
Women’s History Month is all about celebrating all women throughout history, and we would like to thank the women above and so many more for making cycling accessible to girls and women. The fight is not over yet, as cycling is still viewed by many as a male-dominated sport. It was only last year (last year?!) that women got their version of the Tour de France. We are passionate about getting everyone cycling, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity or race, so join us and get cycling!