Riding a Bicycle Used to be Considered Immoral

Here is an interesting footnote to anyone studying the lives of their ancestors. Writing in the JSTOR Daily web site, Livia Gershon describes the morality of riding a bicycle in the 1890s. Amongst other things, Gershon states: “The bicycle craze of the 19th century, in which both men and women participated, was seen as a moral affront by church leaders.”

For one thing, “Cycling women often wore bloomers that were much like men’s pants and were widely seen as indecent.” Another statement caught my eye: “The Women’s Rescue League of Boston even claimed that, following the closing of brothels, prostitutes were riding bikes to reach their clients.”

Did your ancestors have similar views? Or were they bicyclists? Bicycling was a very, very popular activity in the 1880s through the early 1900s, until automobiles became the preferred method of conveyance.

You can read Livia Gershon’s article at: https://daily.jstor.org/the-moral-threat-of-bicycles-in-the-1890s.

One Comment

As the article later points out, moralists had opposing views on bicycling. For example, my great grandfather, a devout Quaker and Prohibitionist, was a member of a cycling club.

And one quibble with the article… The safety bicycle was invented earlier than 1887. See, e.g., http://safety-bicycle-development.the-safety-bicycle.antique-bicycles.net/ .


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