'How is it activism to ride a bicycle?' Exploring the 'women cyclists' curiosity card

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/zrivzKhiQSo

Find out about some research activities teachers can do with middle primary students using the women cyclists curiosity card (CC0009) and the fertile question ‘How is it activism to ride a bicycle?’.



Video title: 'How is it activism to ride a bicycle?'. Subtitle: Exploring the 'women cyclists' curiosity card with middle primary students.

Indira Neville sitting on a sofa at the Auckland Services to Schools centre, with books and shelves in the background.

Text appears:

Indira Neville
Services to Schools
National Library of New Zealand
Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.


Hi, my name is Indira Neville. I'm Principal Advisor for Services to Schools at the National Library. I'm going to be talking about some of the research activities you might do for the curiosity card of the suffrage on a bike.


Black-and-white photo: A small group, including women riding bicycles on a dirt country road.

Black-and-white photo: Women playing outdoor field hockey in full-length dresses.

Black-and-white photo: Three women inspecting bicycles.

Photo: Cut-out of newspaper advertisement for 'Ferris' Bicycle Corset Waist'.

Back to Indira on the sofa.


What you could do is you could get or make some long, heavy skirts and get students to undertake a variety of physical activities in these: riding a bike, but also climbing a tree, playing football, playing netball.

And then get them to do the same activities in their regular clothes and record and explore what they noticed and felt et cetera about how they moved. If you added into this, when they were wearing the skirts, the requirement to be delicate and slow and modest and feminine, then you get another layer again about how difficult it was to operate in these kinds of clothing.


Black-and-white photo: A group of cyclists, led by a woman cyclist, cycling along a dirt path or road.

Old newspaper article, title: 'The bicycle face'.

A short series of photographs of the Women's Suffrage Centenary Memorial wall: The wall has an artwork of 4 women, each holding a bicycle and wearing a hat and a long skirt or dress. The artwork appears to be a coloured from an original black-and-white photograph of 4 women.

Old newspaper article: 'Bloomers in Chicago: How the Unique Club Disciplined Two Members who Appeared In Skirts'.

Old newspaper article: 'Don'ts for women riders'.

Back to Indira on the sofa.


You might like to explore the language associated with suffragettes and bikes. They were known as 'velocipedestriennes' and there was the phenomenon of the 'bicycle face' where cycling was perceived to negatively impact a woman's beauty.

You might like to visit the Women's Suffrage Centenary Memorial in Te Ha o Hine Place in Auckland Central. At the top of the stairs of this memorial is a panel of 4 cycling women and it's really interesting because their long skirts and big hats, which looks so heavy, are bright colours. So thinking about the contrast there.

You could explore the unique Cycling Club of Chicago's 'List of don'ts' for women cyclists from 1895, which includes: 'don't faint on the road', 'don't wear white kid gloves, wear silk', 'don't try to ride in your brother's clothes', and 'don't appear in public until you've learned to ride well'.

Perhaps you could make your own list for 2018.


Web page showing colour photos of a woman in front of a bike wearing traditional bloomers.

Web page article: 'Pattern #6 Cycling bloomers I, II — Design features'.

Back to Indira on the sofa.


And finally, you could explore the extensive, online historic and vintage sewing pattern collections, to understand the history of bloomers and trousers for women and make some of the items.


Video and photo credits:

Members of the Griffiths family on bicycles, ca 1899 by Frank J Denton. Ref: 1/1-021086-G Alexander Turnbull Library.

Hockey tournament at Nelson, 1910 by Frederick Jones. Ref: 1/2-C-00377-F Alexander Turnbull Library.

Three women cleaning their bicycles, ca 1900. Photographer unknown. Ref: 1365-16 Auckland Library Heritage Collections.

Ferris’ bicycle corset waist advertisement, ca 1895 by Ferris Bros. Public domain.

Holy Sepulchre Bicycle Club. Photographer unknown. Ref: PH-CNEG-C22841 Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The bicycle face. ‘Hastings Standard’, 12 November, 1896. Viewed in 2018 from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/hastings-standard/1896/11/12/4.

Women’s Suffrage Centenary Memorial, Khartoum Place, Auckland, 2018 by Graham Elliot. Picture Talk Productions Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bloomers in Chicago. ‘Le Mars Semi-Weekly Sentinel’, 19 August 1895, page 3. Viewed in 2018 from https://newspaperarchive.com/le-mars-semi-weekly-sentinel-aug-19-1895-p-3/.

Don’ts for women riders. ‘Le Mars Semi-Weekly Sentinel’, 19 August 1895, page 3. Viewed in 2018 from https://newspaperarchive.com/le-mars-semi-weekly-sentinel-aug-19-1895-p-3/.

Bikes & Bloomers. ‘#6 Cycling Bloomers’. Viewed in 2018 from http://bikesandbloomers.com/staff-item/6-cycling-bloomers/.

Curiosity card CC0009

Video ends