‘Women, beware of bicycle face!’

Cycling, feminist and independent travel

by
Susan Muthalaly (Europeana Foundation)

It is hard to imagine that a little over a century ago, women were discouraged from riding their bicycles. In the late 19th century, medical professionals made up a disease called ‘Bicycle Face’ to discourage women from cycling.

The increasing availability of cycles brought women mobility and the independence to travel alone. This of course threatened the male hegemony.
The solution was to scare women into believing that riding bicycles would cause their eyes to bulge, and their chins to jut out due to the strain to keep their balance on the bikes. These were considered undesirable female features.

The women in these late 19th century posters found via Europeana.eu clearly were not suffering from 'Bicycle Face'!

All images are from the National Library of France, and you can explore more cycle-themed images here.

Motocycles Comiot, Paris 87 Boulevart Gouvion St Cyr

La Société Decauville ne fait pas courir .. . Cycles Decauville, pneu Michelin ou autres

Nordisk Cyclefabrik... Copenhagen

Gladiator cycles

Hurtu Diligeon & Cie

Cycles Sirius, P. Cusset, constructeur à Lavallois-Perret

Vélodrome d'hiver. Palais des arts libéraux (cycles Humber) à 2h tous les dimanches (machines pneus Dunlop)

Cycles Humber

La Guêpe... bicyclette de haute précision

Pièces détachées et Cycles Brillant. 1900, Exposition Universelle, Médaille d'argent

Cycles motos Armor

sport cycling Tour de France women women's history