Women on the move

In the 1890s, the cycling craze gave a boost to the “rational clothing” movement that encouraged women to shed long, cumbersome skirts and bulky underpinnings; a few wore bloomers, but most opted for slightly shorter skirts.

"The Scorcher" sheet music, 1890s

“If we give them the chance,

 They will all wear the pants!

 I wonder what they will do next?”

— I Wonder What Will They Do Next?, 1894

Heading out, Nebraska, 1907

Heading out, Nebraska, 1907

Courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2608, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply

"What Will the Girls do Next?" sheet music, 1896

Bicycles offered women mobility, independence, and a way out. For many—like the woman picture above, heading off to work beyond the confines of home and farm—the bicycle was, according to one observer in 1896, “a steed upon which they rode into a new world.”