Women who changed history: a bike tour

“It may surprise you to learn that many people, including women, felt that the bicycle was not appropriate for women, and that there was an inherent danger to their health and morality,” said Megan Metcalf, the Women’s, Gender, and LBTQ+ Studies Specialist and Librarian at the Library of Congress.

We had a blast proving those 19th century naysayers wrong.

 

Women & Bicycles held our second annual Strong Women Ride in February, braving threatening weather to ride around DC learning about women who changed history.

We started at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, which opened in 1897. At the time, Metcalf explained, Americans were “absolutely obsessed with the bicycle—and for the first time women were able to engage with a new mechanical technology.” No one in our group rode a high-wheeler, but our modern bikes gave us the opportunity engage with the monuments and historical markers as we rode.

We stopped at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the Jane Delano statue at the Red Cross, and Lady Fortitude at Howard University, and the Mary McLeod Bethune statue at Lincoln Park. We rode to the LeDroit Park home of Anna Cooper, the fourth African-American woman to earn her Ph.D. (at the Sorbonne, in History). Further south in Lincoln Park, the Mary McLeod Bethune statue dominates the plaza. Bethune was a teacher and advisor to several Presidents on issues of race, equality, and culture, most notably serving FDR on his “Black Cabinet.” One of her most compelling written pieces is her Last Will and Testament.

Back at the Library, Megan showcased women librarians who have shaped the Library of Congress. Dr. Carla Hayden is the current Librarian of Congress—the first woman, and first African-American, to lead the world’s largest library. Also featured was Andre Alice Norton, a librarian and author who wrote hundreds of novels under a male pen name. Audre Lorde is known to many as a revolutionary feminist and “warrior-poet,” but not many know she was also a librarian!

We had a great day braving the weather and feeding our intellects. A huge Women & Bicycles to Megan Metcalf for sharing her knowledge with us!

Megan Metcalf is a librarian who also bikes to work each day. She has firsthand experience of how empowering a bicycle can be. She completed her B.A. and M.A. in Women’s and Gender studies, and her MLSIS all the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the first person to hold this particular speciality at the library. Megan also serves as the Vice-Chair of LC-Globe, and coordinates a Women’s History and Gender Studies Discussion group on the first Thursday of every month. For more information on their monthly presentations, email WomensHIstory@loc.gov. She invites everyone age 16 and up to register and come read and research.