‘Women, beware of bicycle face!’

It is hard to imagine that a little over a century ago, women were discouraged from riding their bicycles. In the late 19th century, medical professionals  made up a disease called ‘Bicycle Face’ to discourage women from cycling. The increasing availability of cycles brought women mobility and the independence to travel alone. This of course threatened the male hegemony.
The solution was to scare women into believing that riding bicycles would cause their eyes to bulge, and their chins to jut out due to the strain to keep their balance on the bikes. These were considered undesirable female features.

The women in these late 19th century posters found via Europeana.eu clearly were not suffering from ‘Bicycle Face’!

All images are from the National Library of France. More cycle-themed images here.

Motocycles Comiot, Paris 87 Boulevart Gouvion St Cyr : [affiche]
La Société Decauville ne fait pas courir .. . Cycles Decauville, pneu Michelin ou autres … : [affiche]
Nordisk Cyclefabrik… Copenhagen… : [affiche]
Gladiator cycles : [affiche]
Hurtu Diligeon & Cie… : [affiche]
Cycles Sirius, P. Cusset, constructeur à Lavallois-Perret : [affiche]
Vélodrome d’hiver. Palais des arts libéraux (cycles Humber) à 2h tous les dimanches (machines pneus Dunlop) : [affiche]
Cycles Humber : [affiche]
La Guêpe… bicyclette de haute précision… : [affiche]
Pièces détachées et Cycles Brillant. 1900, Exposition Universelle, Médaille d’argent : [affiche]
Cycles motos Armor : [affiche]

2 thoughts on “‘Women, beware of bicycle face!’

  1. I just read about “bicycle face” at a local (Richmond, Virginia) museum that started out as a bicycle clubhouse in the 1890’s. Hysterically funny, but I can’t help wondering how many women were denied the freedom and joy of cycling because of this made up potential health hazard. I’ve shared this blog post on my facebook page, with attribution.

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