Riding the Wheel: Selling American Women Mobility and Geographic Knowledge
AbstractThe bicycle's “prime” was a mere decade, 1890-1900, but in this brief window, it had a profound impact on American women’s lives. This paper will examine the role of the media in transforming women's relationship to their world, altering how, where and why they moved through the landscape, drawing from work on cartographic culture, actor-network theory and consumption and mass culture. Through popular magazine articles, stories, advertisements, and maps, American women (as well as men) were “informed” of the possibilities the bicycle had to offer, modeling geographic mobility, greater spatial awareness, and the practice of both cartography and landscape. Women had to tackle a network of new technologies – bicycles, maps, spatial information – to successfully transcend their sphere on their cycle. While women's roles in society did not substantially change, it did lead to greater personal freedoms in mobility and the need for more detailed geographic information.
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