“Don’t Scratch a Match on the Seat of Your Bloomers” and 46 Other Rules for Women Cyclists

The humble bicycle played an important part in women’s history, helping to redefine conventions of femininity during the women’s rights movements of the late 19th century.

“As women learned to ride bicycles they not only gained physical mobility that broadened their horizons beyond the neighborhoods in which they lived, they discovered a new-found sense of freedom of movement, a freedom previously circumscribed by the cumbersome fashions of the Victorian era as well as by Victorian sensibilities.”

But who would have thought that bike riding was such a drama for a woman back in the day!!

An article published in the Newark Daily Advocate, dated 21 July 1895, gives a list of 41 Dont’s for Women Riders, and it really has to be read to be believed!

Here’s a transcription of the list:

  • Don’t be a fright.
  • Don’t faint on the road.
  • Don’t wear a man’s cap.
  • Don’t wear tight garters.
  • Don’t forget your toolbag
  • Don’t attempt a “century.”
  • Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
  • Don’t criticise people’s “legs.”
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  • Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
  • Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
  • Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
  • Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  • Don’t “talk bicycle” at the table.
  • Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
  • Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
  • Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  • Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
  • Don’t keep your mouth open on dirty roads.
  • Don’t converse while in a scorching position.
  • Don;t go out after dark without a male escort.
  • Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
  • Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
  • Don’t wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing.
  • Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
  • Don’t tempt fate by riding too near the curbstone.
  • Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
  • Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  • Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.
  • Don’t think you look as pretty as every fashion plate.
  • Don’t go out without a needle, thread and thimble.
  • Don’t allow your dear little Fido to accompany you.
  • Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  • Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match”.
  • Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
  • Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
  • Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels”.
  • Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
  • Don’t throw your legs over the handlebar and coast down the hill.
  • Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
  • Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because yon ride a wheel.
  • Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
  • Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
  • Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing”. That is sporty.

So readers, if you could transport yourself back to 1895, and you were a female bike rider back then,. how many of those rules have you broken? My hand would be up for a number of them for sure. But we’re not in 1895 … thank goodness … although if we were I could visit great great grandpa and ask … but that’s a story for another day.

One Response to ““Don’t Scratch a Match on the Seat of Your Bloomers” and 46 Other Rules for Women Cyclists”

  1. Isabel says:

    What a bicycle load of fun 🙂

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