I’ve written recently about the worries about women’s moral virtue associated with the backlash against early feminism and women on bikes in the late 1800s. (See Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s.)
However, I also find the medical condemnations of women’s cycling fascinating for what they tell us about what people thought (and maybe still think?) about women’s athletic capabilities and potential.
Many physicians held that women’s bodies simply weren’t suited to cycling. They thought that the bicycle was a sure path to sexual depravity (given the motion of the bike and the proximity of the seat to women’s genitals) and infertility (given the shaking the womb obviously endures while riding a bike). Also, our weaker natures made us prone to exhaustion.
Reading their medical reports on the dangers of cycling–one can’t really call it ‘research,’ more a mix of armchair meanderings and anecdotes–you get a clear…
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