Honoring the Founding Mothers of Biking during Women’s History Month

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These three women paved the way for women cyclists everywhere

As we head into March, aka Women’s History Month, let’s take a trip to the late 1800’s to recognize the struggle that our Women in Biking Founding Mothers went through just to give us our biking rights.

Kittie Knox

Oddly enough, all of the following events occurred within a two year span, starting in 1894 with Kittie Knox. A card carrying member of The League of American Wheelmen since 1893, Knox became a victim when The League passed a color bar in 1894, allowing only white people to obtain memberships.

A biracial, 21-year-old cyclist, Knox walked into a League meeting in “men’s” clothing and asserted her right to obtain her membership. Despite her fighting for her rights, reports say she was not re-granted her membership. She brought attention to the issues of gender and racial discrimination to the public, but, unfortunately, it took The League of American Wheelmen literally 100 years to change their name to The League of American Bicyclists in 1994.

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Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky

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That same year, Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, someone who was never really an advocate for cycling or women’s rights, found herself a champion of both when two men bet her $5,000 that no woman could bike around the globe. Londonderry–a Jewish immigrant, 23-years-old, mother of three, and housewife–set out of Boston in 1894 in a full length skirt.

She traveled throughout Europe, North Africa, sailed the South Pacific, and arrived to the states through San Francisco. After fifteen month journey, she returned home in bloomers with a surname obtained through a contract with the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water company, and with a new-found advocacy for women’s rights.

Maria E. Ward

Two years later, Maria E. Ward wrote “Bicycling for Ladies,” a guide to cycling and everything you need to know about it. Ward goal: distance women from relying on men by teaching them everything they need to know about buying, riding, and maintaining a bicycle. Ward’s book is still purchasable here.

Women’s cycling rights go farther than we think, as it’s not just about the biking industry, but also our society’s sexist tendencies. Over a century later, and it seems as though the struggles of Knox, Londonderry, and Ward could happen today. Let’s thank our Founding Mothers, and keep recognizing and appreciating the women still making progress in cycling today.

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Image 1: http://arc.lib.montana.edu/msu-photos/item/135

Image 2: https://transportationhistory.org/2017/03/13/women-in-transportation-history-kittie-knox-african-american-cyclist/

Image 3: https://totalwomenscycling.com/lifestyle/10-facts-annie-londonderry

Image 4: https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/bicycling-for-ladies/author/maria-ward/used/

 Get involved with wmnbikepgh…

…Bike Pittsburgh’s program welcome to womxn, femmes, non-binary, and gender non-confirming people. Visit the program home page!

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