July 19, 2014

“Don’t faint on the road.” Or, A List of “Don’ts” for Women on Bikes in 1895. ~ Brenna Fischer

shennanigans boy on bike

I came across this ridiculous but oh-so-real relic of “don’ts” while researching another “don’t” of the day, “Bicycle Face” (also listed below).

According to Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova, the list was published in a newspaper called New York World back in 1895. I imagine it was published as a kind of public service announcement (or perhaps a warning; “Here’s what you’re getting yourself into if you start riding a bike!) for women.

However, the list seems to include things women shouldn’t do, on or off, a bike.

It includes remarks about everything from fashion, “Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome” to social etiquette “Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private” and even proper animal treatment “Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.”

(As far as I know, none of these has anything to do with riding a bike.)

While some of them just don’t make any sense at all, “Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.”

But, isn’t that how to ride a bicycle?

Though the list is not practical or functional it did make me stop to think about how far we’ve come as a society. I am forever grateful to all the men and women who have fought for women’s rights and equalities, because of them we are all free to “cultivate a bicycle face”, “faint on the road” or even leave the house “without a needle, thread and thimble.”

Thank you.

  1. Don’t be a fright.
  2. Don’t faint on the road.
  3. Don’t wear a man’s cap.
  4. Don’t wear tight garters.
  5. Don’t forget your toolbar.
  6. Don’t attempt a “century” (riding 100 miles)
  7. Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
  8. Don’t boast of your long rides.
  9. Don’t criticize people’s “legs.”
  10. Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
  11. Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
  12. Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
  13. Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  14. Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
  15. Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
  16. Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
  17. Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
  18. Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  19. Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  20. Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
  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.
  24. Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
  25. Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  26. Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
  27. Don’t go out without a needle, thread and thimble.
  28. Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match.”
  29. Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
  30. Don’t allow dear little Fido to accompany you.
  31. Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  32. Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you 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.
  36. Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”
  37. Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
  38. Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because yon ride a wheel.
  39. Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
  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.

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       Editor: Catherine Monkman

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