In the late 19th century, cycling was at the forefront of movements for women’s equality. Women embraced the independence & the freedom of cycling &, despite public & media consternation, shed voluminous dresses & up to seven pounds of underwear. After 50 years of campaigning & the ‘Rational Dress Movement,’ the wider availability of bicycles gave impetus to the women’s suffrage movement.
“(Bicycling) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” civil rights campaigner Susan B Anthony, New York World 1896.
Here are a couple of links to academics working in this area who inspired the show & costumes:
Sheila Hanlon’s Bicycle Face – a Guide to Victorian Cycling Diseases
Dr Kat Jungknickel – a short, film about Victorian Convertible Cyclewear
Today, young women in the UK tend to stop cycling at puberty & the majority never re-start. In an inverted parallel to the late 1800s, freedom, independence & economy are outweighted by issues of appearance, unfashionable & uncool clothing, helmet hair & getting sweaty, as well as safety fears, traffic & worries about fitness.
Encouraging women to ride bikes is, owever, a major frontier in improving health & encouraging healthy lifestyles; promoting sustainability, reducing traffic & air pollution. Blazing Saddles is marking the transformations & hopes to be part of the change.
Bicycle Ballet is seeking to continue evolving Blazing Saddles by exploring the wider history of women cycling & its impact on our clothing & lives today. We are looking to extend the scope of the Blazing Saddles performances & develop a series of arts & heritage, family & educational, engagement activities across all ages.
Spanning the arts, heritage, cycling, sport, transport, sustainability & health, Blazing Saddles has the potential to reach new & wider audiences, & participants in a variety of contexts, to change the way people think about cycling &, ultimately, help encourage more people to ride.
Please get in touch if you are interested in becoming a partner: firstname.lastname@example.org