It has been a very hectic last two weeks. Work has consumed much of my time and energy. As well as the new 2018 University semester starting, I’m preparing to present (twice!) at the English Australia PD Fest next week and also have a few other projects bubbling away! Argh! So amongst all this work, it was wonderful to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018.
Happy International Women’s Day!
As many regular readers of BCC know, my PhD research explores how bicycles can be better utilised to help rural African girls access secondary school.
This remains a critical issue in developing countries, where rural women and girls, in particular, are still severely disadvantaged when it comes to labour, land rights, water and food security, safety and access to essential services, such as education, health and income-generating opportunities.
So celebrating and sharing the history, stories and experiences at the heart of International Women’s Day (IWD) has an extra layer of importance for me – as it does for many others.
What is International Women’s Day 2018?
As the official IWD website states, International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first March 8 IWD gathering supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.
The 2018 IWD theme is #PressforProgress.
Bicycles Create Change always celebrates International Women’s Day. For the 2016 IWD, it was from a uniquely Filipino and Timorese perspective and paid homage to the strong men who support strong women. Last year for 2017, a number of great bike-inspired events were reviewed, like the Cycling Victoria IWD awards and a wide range of rides and events happening around the world.
This year, I found some amazing Bicycle Suffragette photos. I wanted to pay my respects to the amazing ladies who defied all so that most women can now have the freedom to ride bicycles. In places around the world where women are not allowed to ride bikes, like in Iran, women are fighting for that right in a similar way to our previous 1890s sisters in the West.
The Suffragette’s fight to ride a bike
There is still much to do, especially in developing nations, to raise the standard of women and achieve gender parity. The impact and importance of the humble bicycle has always been instrumental and iconic in this struggle.
A more comprehensive summary of the Bicycles Suffragettes can be found at Alasko Velo’s blog, but, I think this quote from Anne-Marije Rook (via the Seattle Bike Blog as the original link has been lost), gives some great insight into the connection between cycling and women at the time..
“In a way, bicycling freed women. It gave them unprecedented mobility as they could pedal away from home and see parts of town and the countryside previously only seen from a carriage.
With their own bodily strength, they controlled their path and could feel the freedom of the fresh wind against their faces even if it was for just a leisurely afternoon ride.
Women got organized and created bicycling groups and since bicycling was impossible with the restrictive garments women wore at that time, the bicycling movement made way for less layers, shorter skirts and even athletic bloomers.
The unladylike clothing, positioning on the bike, and physical exercise of course didn’t come without social condemnation at first but bicycling women persevered.”
The freedom and empowerment that bicycles provide as an independent transport mode, has been revered and celebrated for well over a century.
The defiance and strength of these amazing women paved the way for the future. As well as looking forward to progressing female accomplishments, I think it is also equally important to reflect and recognise the past people, actions and changes that have brought us here today.
Horray and thankyou Bicycle Suffragettes!
Happy International Women’s Day to all riders!