MP-1982.15.8 | Laura & Francee (or Lillian) Snowball with bicycles, Fredericton, NB, about 1900

Laura & Francee (or Lillian) Snowball with bicycles, Fredericton, NB, about 1900
Burkhardt G. A.
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Gelatin silver process ?
12 x 17 cm
Gift of Mrs. L. M. Hart
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Some young women found new freedom by riding bicycles. Although the bicycle was very popular, it was also highly controversial. Doctors worried that bicycle riding, like higher education, would be harmful to young women's physical development. And, as this photograph of the Snowball sisters suggests, the clothing women were expected to wear while riding a bicycle made it all quite challenging. Some thought that bloomers-the forerunner of pants for women-were needed, but the Halifax Herald's Women's Extra reassured readers that it was possible to ride a bicycle in a long skirt.

Michael Smith, "Graceful Athleticism or Robust Womanhood: The Sporting Culture of Women in Victorian Nova Scotia, 1870-1914," Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'etudes canaddienes, Vol. 23-Nos. 1&2 (Printemps/Ete 1988 Spring/Summer): 120-137

"Bicycling that Fascinates Fair Woman," Halifax Herald Woman's Extra, August 1894.

  • What

    These young women are posed with their "girls'" bicycles, which were designed without a crossbar so that mounting and dismounting were easier for a rider wearing a skirt.

  • Where

    The bicycle's popularity was widespread in North America and Europe at the turn of the century.

  • When

    The bicycle became very popular in the 1890s when many bicycle clubs, such as this one known as the Halifax "Ramblers," were formed.

  • Who

    Canadian medical doctors, quick to respond to the bicycle fad of the 1890s, issued warnings against female cycling. Among other things, they claimed that bicycle riding would make women infertile.