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Women’s (Bike) History: Amelia Bloomer
She’s a household name, though maybe not quite in the way she expected.
Amelia Bloomer’s last name has taken on a meaning all its own. A contemporary of Susan B. Anthony and a women’s rights leader in her own right, Bloomer made headlines by wearing her full-length pants that gathered at the ankles.
These contentious pants would later be commonly referred to ‘bloomers.’ While Bloomer didn’t create the garment, she popularized it — and stirred up a major debate on women’s rights during the mid-to -late 19th century. Many viewed bloomers as unbecoming of women during that time period, and Bloomer made women’s dress reform a keystone of her advocacy, writing about the pants in her newspaper The Lily, which focused on a number of women’s issues.
So what’s it got to do with bikes? The controversy around the “unseemly” attire intersected with the first American bicycle boom. As bikes spiked in popularity in the late 19th century, bloomers made it all that much easier for a women to hop on the saddle. The placement of the gears and pedals at the time made it difficult for a women to ride in a long dress or skirt. Bloomers changed the game.
So when you strap that velcro around your pant leg tomorrow, give thanks to Amelia and her push for dress reform. Interested in learning more about Bloomer? Click here. Follow the League blog every day this month for profiles of the extraordinary women who have helped advance bicycling in the United States.