All-Women Cycling Teams in 1896

The Petaluma Historian has posted a fascinating look at the face of cycling a century ago.

On July 4, 1896, Petaluma found itself anointed the new “bicycling Mecca” of the West Coast, as a reported 6,000 people turned out at the city’s new Wheelman Park for the annual divisional meet of the League of American Wheelmen.

Among the 18 Northern California teams competing were two comprised entirely of women—San Francisco’s Alpha Cycling Club and Petaluma’s own “women of the wheel,” the Mercury Cyclists.

The story has many amusing turns and quotes. This one might be my favorite.

As the Mercury Cyclists and other wheelwomen took to their steel steeds, they ran into some cultural speed bumps from conservative Victorians, who wanted to know where they were riding to.

When the question was put to women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton by American Wheelman magazine, she succinctly replied: “To suffrage.”

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