Before the 19th century, most societies in the world existed in a patriarchal form. Hence,
looking down upon women despite their abilities. Women could only exist as objects to serve
men and children, thus terminating the capabilities of furthering their ambitions. However,
during the 19th century, a group of women with the title 'Suffragettes' decided to be the voice of
women for equality to men in the male chauvinist societies and began by advocating for women's
rights by introducing a petition for the right to vote by all mature women. For an effective
women awareness campaign, the female empowerment activists used bicycles as essential tools
that proved useful.
Evolving of the bicycle.
According to Smethurst, 2015, penny-farthing was the first form of bicycle that got
invented in 1817. Its features included a large front wheel and a small hind wheel with a steer to
control its movement. However, it had a limited market since it was only favorable to men
considering that women feared toppling over when riding due to its exaggerated front while size,
leading to the change of design. A shift in design led to the invention of the safety bicycle with
wheels of the same size, thus increasing riders' stability. In turn leading to bicycle companies
attaining their aim of making more sales since the new design encouraged women to learn how
to ride bicycles and later purchase one since it signified social liberty, a symbol that began to
give women a sense of empowerment.
Importance of the bicycle to the suffragette movement
As stated earlier, the safety bicycle acted as a symbol of social liberty that enabled women
to move from place to place under their power. Independent movement of women in the 19th
century was a new thing since in the preceding years' women could only travel under an escort
when on foot or via surveillance of chaperones in carriages depending on their social
status (Seražin et al., 2018). Realizing the independence of movement via bicycles increased
women's desire to own one and, consequently, prove that women were equal to men since they
could ride bikes and own them as men do.
Moreover, bicycles acted as tools for the campaign to enforce the rights of women to vote.
Bikes being simple machines enabled women to move for longer distances with banners for the
right to vote without easily being overwhelmed with fatigue. Consequently, covering longer
distances with banners ensured that a significant percentage of society received the information,
eventually leaving the representation peoples act with no option other than granting women their
right (Wingerden & Wingerden, 2016). The right allowed all women above the age of 21 to vote
their leader of choice, which was another vital step of empowering women since they got a share
of equality to men in making political decisions for their states.
Additionally, bicycles helped women run their errands, leading to economic independence
among the female gender, a vital sub-objective of the suffragette movement (Wingerden &
Wingerden, 2016). The safety bicycle had a small-customized carrier that made it possible to
carry goods that women would sell to acquire money. Besides, the bicycle being a faster means
of transport than walking enabled women to arrive at their workplaces early to maximize their
production rate. That led to women earning an extra amount, which was only common with men
Therefore, despite a bicycle being an underrated simple machine, it is logical to consider
it a great tool that pioneered the empowerment women enjoy since the 19th century. All in all, it
is of great importance to grant both genders equal opportunities since it is in freedom that people
attain their full potential to not only help themselves but also the society at large.
Seražin, H., Garda, E. M., & Franchini, C. (2018). Women's creativity since the modern
movement (1918-2018): Toward a new perception and reception. Založba ZRC.
Smethurst, P. (2015). Invention: The technical evolution of the modern bicycle. The Bicycle —
Towards a Global History, 9-66. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137499516_2
Wingerden, S. V., & Wingerden, S. A. (2016). The women's suffrage movement in Britain,