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Keep Liv’n 02.15 | Wonder Work’n Woman Power: Born To Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face


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Welcome to Keep Living. Happy Women’s Month and it’s Story Time with Jessie Almstead.

Hello, everybody, welcome to Keep Livin the Women’s History Month take over, that is Jay, who’s amazing.

This is usually here has allowed women to take over and bring a little bit of women’s history. So that’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to read a book and it’s going to be great. I got my hot chocolate. So it’s a cozy evening.

Raise your hand if you like to ride your bike.

We’re going to read about this character who also you can see is a big fan of bikes. It’s born to write a story about bicycle face. Hey, everybody. And I’ll tell you, the cover and the title of this book is really what got me. Because Bicycle Face, what is that? I had to know.

And I’m so glad that I picked it. I can’t wait to read it to you. I just want to say a quick thing, because how I know Jay is through the risk of it.

Cisco Tanavoli Ethical Society. And we actually are in the midst of a 30 hour fundraiser called Raise the Region. And we’re raising funds to bring our ethical action work to folks here in central Pennsylvania. So if you see that link down there, we’ll take you to learn more about us at CBS and about that fundraiser as well. So check it out. All right. Ready to read, ready to get cozy with a story. This book is by Larissa Tool.

I don’t know if I’m saying her name right. And the pictures are by Kelsey Garrity.

Riley, to the folks on this.

And then here it says, let me tell you what I think about bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.

That was a quote by Susan B. Anthony.

Now, as we’re reading this, you’re going to want to pay attention to the pictures because the pictures are telling their own story, kind of in the background of the written story.

This spread here is just simply an illustration in Rochester, New York.

In the year eighteen ninety six girls and women lived by a long list of things they were told not to do. They were not to vote, for example, that was against the law. They were also told not to wear pants or ride a bicycle.

That’s pretty hard to believe, right, if you were a woman or a girl. In this time period of eighteen ninety six, you couldn’t do any of those things you were told? No, but Louisa and Linda Bellflower had a mind to ride a bicycle no matter what anyone might say. Her brother Joe had been given a brand new Van Cleve and riding it looked like a whole lot of fun.

I’m going to zoom into Belinda. What is she up to while her brother is riding his bike? I don’t know if you can see that she’s got some books about bicycles here. And then there’s another pamphlet about getting women the right to vote.

This was Louisa Belinda Bel Flowers, everyday outfit. Not comfortable. I think you will agree. This was Joe’s everyday outfit. Also not comfortable, but at least one could cartwheel in it. Louisa Belinda cast aside her skirts and put on her brother’s pants. Teach me to ride, she said.

What will mother say? Joe asked. She needn’t know, said Louisa Belinda. And see what mother is up to. Interesting, but what about Joe? Lowered his voice.

Bicycle face.

It’s real, you know. Everyone says so.

Even Dr Brown. He says girls aren’t strong enough to balance that. Your eyes will bulge and your jaw will close up from the strain of trying. Maybe forever.

What do you think about that, Louisa?

Belinda had heard the rumors she considered for a moment. She had lovely eyes and how would she eat with a closed up job?

But Joe’s eyes did not bulge, his jaw had not closed up, and she could balance the length of a fallen log just the same as he could. Nervous, she said. Anyway, I was born to ride. See your face. Joe was a good teacher, patient and clear in giving instruction. Even so, Belinda fell. Louisa.

Belinda fell and fell again and again. And again and again, definitely reminds me of when I learned to ride a bike, and you notice in the picture Joe said, I want to call it a day.

Belinda hurt all over. She touched your eyes, tested her jaw. How’s my face? Same as ever, Joe said Luisa, Belinda’s side relieved a very large part of her wanted to give up to go inside for tea and cake and a hot bath. But if she gave up now, would she ever try again? So she said, I will ride what’s going on inside the house.

She hopped back on Warbled and then lo she rode with some alarm.

She felt her eyes bulge and her mouth widened into a gigantic, joyous smile like a bird in flight.

She soared over the hill like a fox on the prairie, she skimmed the ground. Like a bear, she roared, Hello, world, this is my bicycle face.

Those pants seem quite practical, Louisa Bolinder said.

Mother, they are Joe, dear.

Zend mother is father’s bicycle in good riding condition. Tip top condition. Wonder what she’s thinking. Louisa Belinda grinned.

Mother, she said, what will your bicycle face be, I wonder?

And again, at the end, you have another. Picture that’s telling a story. OK, now for the real life information part about bicycle face.

By the eighteen nineties, people were wild for bicycles. Bicycle Madness had taken over the country and even those who didn’t ride were eager to talk about everything relating to the bicycle wheel to topics in particular, generated a lot of enthusiasm. Perhaps the most fervid conversations centered on women cyclists known as real women who rode in the face of convention. But another subject also drummed up intense debate. Was bicycling dangerous to one’s health cyclists, especially while women were cautioned to guard against afflictions such as bicycle, leg, bicycle, hump and bicycle face. Bicycle face, it was said, came from the strain of staying balanced and focused on the road. Supposedly, you could tell when people had bicycle face, by the way their eyes bulged and how their jaws tightened. While anyone might acquire a bicycle affliction, bicycle face was disproportionately applied to women and with particular meanness.

That’s the bicycle, the great dress reformer of the 19th century. You see, not everyone approved of women riding bicycles. Women were expected to be pretty demure and domestic. But we women often contradicted these perceptions. Many people publicly, sometimes viciously scolded women for bicycling, calling it improper, a direct challenge to the male sphere and dangerous to women’s health. Saying a woman had a bicycle face was an attempt to intimidate and shame her and ultimately keep her from the wheel. Fortunately, while women ignored their critics, they formed clubs and opened cafes where they can meet in safety and peace. They established a magazine called The Wheel Woman. They taught one another how to fix their own bicycles. They competed in races and broke records. They adjusted their fashion so they could ride unrestricted, wearing shorter skirts and loose fitting pants called bloomers with functional pockets to hold a whistle or a handkerchief and a few small tools. Bicycling was a fun and speedy mode of transportation, granting women greater freedom to exercise, socialize, travel.

And work and no threat of bicycle base could keep them from the real, like releasable Linda Wheelmen knew that a true bicycle face is one of joy.

And here it says the scorcher, a scorcher was a bicyclist who leaned forward and rode hard and fast just for the thrill of it.

Sounds like fun to me. And then there’s one more section about from bicycles to votes.

During the bicycle craze of the 90s, bicycling was just one of many freedoms sought by women. Women also wanted access to education, so personal and financial independence were career minded, had opinions and voiced them and women wanted to vote. Women had no representation and no voice in government. Which was made up of men who passed laws controlling and restricting women’s rights and freedoms, the women’s suffrage movement was a brave and necessary struggle against oppression, but it also spanned decades and was indefensibly segregated, racially inclusive suffragist gatherings like the ones portrayed in the wheezer Belinda’s home were rare, powerful voices that influenced the slow moving movement included those of Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Ida B Wells. Despite setbacks and sometimes violent resistance, women organized and persisted and won the right to vote in 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified. However, state sanctioned voter suppression tactics kept many women and men of color from the ballot box, and not until the Voting Rights Act of nineteen sixty five, where all people of age guaranteed the right to vote without impediment to this day. The right to vote in a free and fair election is when we fight to retain not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors. Whether we’re learning to ride a bike, facing insults for realizing our dreams or championing our rights. There will always be times when we fall down and get hurt. When that happens, the thing that matters most is what we do next. Can you guess what that should be? You got it. We get back up and try again. And maybe again and probably again after that until we truly learn to ride.

And there’s a photograph of some people with their bicycle’s.

So one reason why I thought that this story was quite interesting is you don’t often think about how mundane things like riding a bike came to be an issue of equality. It’s something we take for granted, but there’s a history to it. And I always think it’s interesting.

Like, see, the fashion of the nineties for women was reflective of what they were expected to do and what they were expected not to do. Right. So by changing their clothes, it actually helped them win more rights. So it was think those things are interesting in history. And the other thing that I wanted to know is how this character, Belinda, she’s a real free thinker. And we often talk about free thinkers. And I know Jay, who usually hosts this show, is one of them. It’s it means you think for yourself. And that’s really all it is. If Belinda listened to everyone else, like the doctor that said bicycle face was a thing, she would never have gotten on that bike, but something in her heart said, you know what, I think I’m going to listen to me.

And she did it. And she was right.

To do so. So that’s something that we like to talk about at. A lot is how to think for yourself and looking at people throughout history who were free thinkers. And this character’s made up. But she represents those women back then who really knew in their hearts that something wasn’t right.

So they had to do something about it.

So all the the grown ups around her are organizing to protest, to demand the right to vote for women. And that was in the 80s, 90s. That didn’t happen until the nineteen hundreds, nineteen thirteen.

And then even then, black women, women of color had to fight even harder and longer. So who knew the bicycle had so much to do with women’s rights? Right. So what do you think about this story?

I have really enjoyed being here and sharing that story with you. And I’m actually going to be returning to keep living on Thursday, the last Thursday of March. So not next week, but the week after that. So I hope you join back here for another inspiring story celebrating women. Thank you, everybody, so much for joining us.

It’s so nice to see you all in the chat. I’m going to catch up with that. Have a wonderful rest of your evening and we’ll see you back here in two weeks for me and for Jay.

All the time by everybody.