The demand of cycling women
The history of cycling and women is also full of demands, difficulties and key political changes.
Cycling and the world of cycling, like so many other sectors, have suffered the blows of their own context. This implies that equality between men and women has been and continues to be a priority. Between demands, struggles and passions, the world of cycling has many personalities who have contributed to changing things. Here are 4 women and a family who, in their own way, contributed.
1. Susan B. Anthony
In a time that now seems so distant but historically close, an American human rights defender and writer fought during the second half of the 19th century for women’s suffrage. This fervent feminist served as president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, and was one of the first 15 women to successfully register in an election to vote. However, a week after doing so, she would be arrested along with the rest of the women who did so for voting illegally.
The fact is that Susan B. Anthony lavished her advocacy for suffrage and women’s rights by covering thousands of miles every year, many of them on her bicycle. She was said to give about 100 speeches a year, so you can imagine how many miles she would have covered on Strava if she had lived in the 21st century.
It’s not uncommon to find an image of Susan riding a bicycle, and the Susan B. Anthony Museum has even created the Susan B. Anthony Bike Tour as a tribute to this historic feminist’s connection to the bicycle.
2. Connie Carpenter
It was in 1896 that the Greek Aristidis Konstantinidis won the first gold medal at the Olympic Games in men’s road cycling. However, it wasn’t until nearly 90 years later that the Olympic Games (Los Angeles ’84) included the women’s category of road cycling. A victory that went to the American Connie Carpenter-Phinney.
This athlete, born in 1957, competed in road and track cycling, winning two medals in 1982 and 1983 at the World Track Cycling Championships, and in 1977 and 1981 at the World Road Cycling Championships.
As a curious fact, her first participation in the Olympic Games was not in Los Angeles 1984, but in Sapporo 1972, because Connie Carpenter was also a great speed skater. Can you imagine that happening today? We could have Lucinda Brandt competing in cyclo-cross and climbing, for example.
3. Kittie Knox
Katherine Towle Knox (1874-1900), better known as Kittie Knox, was the first African-American cyclist accepted into the League of American Wheelmen. In 1893 and at that time, few women were part of this group. An acceptance which would imply to undergo a certain discrimination, because of her skin color. Only one year after being accepted by the LAW, this association modified its statutes so that only white members could be part of this group. These changes, fortunately for her, were not retroactive, but they are indicative of existing apprehensions.
Knox demonstrated during the years she was able to devote to it her great skill as a cyclist, completing a multitude of 100-mile races and surpassing many men in ability and strength. Kidney disease caused her to die very young, at the age of 26. She is now buried at Mount Auburn, Cambridge, where a gravestone was erected in her honour in 2013. Also in Cambridge, the path connecting Broadway and Binney Street, known as the Kittie Knox Bike Path, has been named after her.
4. Familia Colreavy
It was the 90s (of the 19th century) and in Australia cycling was experiencing its particular boom. At that time, the Colreavy family opted to expand their family business by acquiring the Shamrock Hotel, located in Coolgardie, in eastern Australia.
Katherine Colreavy was in charge of organising different events that served to attract clients to her hotel, whether they were carriage races, camel races… or bicycle races. That would make her the country’s first female cycling event promoter, a love for cycling that would also be shared by her daughters Cissie and Hannah Colreavy, who competed for several years in races such as the Western Australian Wheel Race and New Year’s Day Sports at Coolgardie. , event in which the Colreavy were 1st and 2nd respectively.
During the years it remained open, the Shamrock Hotel became the hub of Coolgardie’s cycling community. Could we be talking about the first cycling hotel in history? It would certainly have its own Cycling Centre nowadays…
5. Alfonsina Strada
This Italian female cyclist was the first to participate in one of the three Grand Tours. She did it specifically in the Giro d’Italia, although it was under the name Alfonsin Strada, hiding her true identity. Although the Giro organizers eventually discovered that she was a woman, they allowed her to continue participating even though she was officially disqualified. She managed to complete the 3,610 km 38 hours later than the winner.
Although Alfonsina Strada remained linked to the world of cycling throughout her life, she has never been able to participate in the Giro again. In fact, the historic Italian Tour only staged its first women’s edition in 1988, so you can imagine that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.