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“Women on Wheels: How Gilded Age Women Found Freedom Through Bicycling”

July 2, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Ellen Gruber Garvey joins us through the Humanities NY Public Speaker Program

When women and girls first rode bicycles in large numbers in the 1890s, they celebrated their new freedom to move around in the world. Susan B. Anthony said she stood and rejoiced, “every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” She thought bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Is it surprising that conservatives panicked at visions of women riding alone, with other women, or with unsuitable men, and campaigned to stop them?

Bicycling women did not want to give up their new mobility, and there were plenty of arguments back and forth. Some claimed that women would damage themselves by acquiring a “bicycle face,” or would get sexual pleasure from bicycling — and thus ruin their reproductive capacities. Although this seems like something that happened long ago, women, especially, are often still discouraged from physical activity and mobility in the US and in other countries.

During this talk, Ellen Gruber Garvey will invite the audience to discuss ways they were encouraged to participate in physical activity or discouraged from it, and how they responded. (For a large audience, we can first do this in small groups, or through writing.) We will consider how the automobile, which followed the bicycle as an agent of individual mobility, has reduced Americans’ physical activity.

Ellen is Professor of English at New Jersey City University, where she co-edits the journal Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy. She recently taught for a semester in Paris, as Visiting Professor at the Université Paris 8/Vincennes-St. Denis. Her doctorate is from the University of Pennsylvania, her MA from the University of Massachusetts, and her BA from Empire State College, SUNY. Her recent book, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, has won four awards, including the Society of American Archivists’ Waldo Gifford Leland Award and the Institute for Humanities Research Award.

This is a free event, sponsored by Humanities New York



July 2, 2017
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


Ulster County Historical Society
845 338-5614


Bevier House Museum
2682 Route 209
Kingston, NY 12401 United States
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845 338-5614