Revolutions: How women changed the world on two wheels

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20th April 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 272: Revolutions: How women changed the world on two wheels


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Hannah Ross

TOPICS: A one-hour chat with Hannah Ross, author of “Revolutions,” a new book which explores how the world was changed by women riding bicycles, and how it’s still being changed. For the better.


Revolutions: How women changed the world on two wheels

Mama Agatha


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 272 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was uploaded on Tuesday 20th April 2021.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
How women change the world on two wheels. That’s the premise of a new book called “Revolutions.” I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show, which is a little under an hour long I talk history and modern day radicalism with Revolutions author Hannah Ross. We discuss some of the larger than life characters from her book such as Annie Londonderry, Jacquie Phelan, Lady Harberton and pioneering mountain biking photographer Wende Cragg. Naturally, we recorded over the internet and what I thought was a PC fan or computer fan, it turned out to be, I found out afterwards, turned out to be a heater in Hannah’s spare room. Now it turns on three or four times during the show, but Hannah was in such full flow that I really didn’t like to stop her to complain, but it won’t marr your enjoyment.

Carlton Reid 2:12
And on today’s show, I’ve got Hannah Ross, who has written an excellent book called “Revolutions” and the subhead of that is how women change the world on two wheels. So is a history book. There’s tonnes and tonnes of stuff in there on my speciality like 19th, late 1880s 1890s when when bicycle absolutely was revolutionary, but then there’s tonnes of stuff that bang up to date. You got Ayesha McGowan in there, you’ve got like Wende Cragg from the mountain biking days, in the in the

Carlton Reid 2:51
late 70s, early 1980s.

Carlton Reid 2:55
You’ve got your interviewed Dervla Murphy, Hannah. Yeah, it’s just fascinating, but with loads and loads of brilliant people, an awful lot of them are actually not What does anymore because the history book, but tell us about you, Hannah. So who is Hannah Ross? What do you do when you’re not writing great books?

Hannah Ross 3:14
Right, very difficult question to answer. I am or my professional job is I work in publishing, not the publisher who published my book, but another publisher. I’m currently on maternity leave and have a nine month old baby.

Carlton Reid 3:30
Is that Cleo?

Hannah Ross 3:31
Yes, that’s Cleo. So I had a lockdown, baby. And so that’s all been very strange. But obviously, I am a very keen cyclist, I probably wouldn’t have written this book.

Carlton Reid 3:41
And so the reason why I know your baby’s name sorry, sorry, Hannah is I’m guessing there was because you’ve dedicated the book to Cleo. And then you say to Cleo and I hope you grow up to be a cyclist in effect, which is very sweet.

Hannah Ross 3:52
Yes. What actually the book was meant to come out last year. But because the pandemic it got moved on, last year the dedication was to the bump.

Hannah Ross 4:01
Changed that now. Now that we know who she is

Carlton Reid 4:05
Well, let’s talk about the bump and and the the Cleo-shaped non-bump now. So you cycled because in the book, it talks about this a little bit because it talks about you cycling when pregnant because you moved to France to do the book.

Carlton Reid 4:20

Hannah Ross 4:21
I moved to France yes in I was very, very lucky that my work granted me a sabbatical for eight months. And I thought well, let’s take this off and let’s go live in France, and obviously one of the best countries in the world for cycling. So whilst I was doing a lot of writing, I was in quite a lot of cycling.

Hannah Ross 4:40
And in the foothills of the Pyranees, very, very nice.

Hannah Ross 4:44
So, yes, happy time.

Carlton Reid 4:48
So you moved there and you were doing some cycling and then you were cycling up to term?

Carlton Reid 4:55
pregnancy and cycling, cycling and pregnancy basically.

Hannah Ross 4:59

Hannah Ross 5:00
My intention was to carry on as much as they felt comfortable inside. And so I my life normally when I met anyone are in London consists of cycling to work every day but also doing rides that weekend.

Hannah Ross 5:16
I didn’t know. And I wanted to continue with that. If if it felt right, all the time, I have no idea. It’s my is my first pregnancy. So I just thought, okay, let’s just see how it goes. I’ve seen people like cyclo-cross

Hannah Ross 5:32
champion Helen Wyman who I interviewed in the book. She had her baby a few months before me. She’d been cyclingup until the baby was born. I thought, okay, yeah, I’ll do that too.

Hannah Ross 5:43
And so I had been going out a bit doing long rides, I’ve been getting a bit slower, and actually taking it quite easy really thinking, Oh, well, I’m pregnant. It’s more about the cafe stops.

Hannah Ross 5:56
Then can happen. And my rides became rides around Regent’s Park. Not really my type of cycling, but it was still good to get get out and get some exercise and just pottering around London more, but also actually became, really,

Hannah Ross 6:17
it was actually very useful that I cycled everywhere because I could get hospital appointments, I didn’t have to pay public transport. I was still one of the only people I think I ever thought in the maternity unit with a bicycle helmet.

Carlton Reid 6:29
Tell us about Marfan syndrome.

Hannah Ross 6:31
Marfan syndrome, I was diagnosed as a child. And it’s, it’s quite a complex syndrome, which kind of affect and affect various

Hannah Ross 6:44
different parts of your body. But essentially, it’s a problem with your ligaments, or they become very stretched. And ligaments are sort of in lots of parts of your body, your eyes, your heart.

Hannah Ross 6:58
And it can cause in very rare circumstances, it can cause quite significant problems with your heart. And some, if you’re affected quite significantly, would provide the key exercise to it to a minimum. Luckily, my

Hannah Ross 7:19
I have the conditioning quite mildly. And my family been very supportive. But carrying on the

Carlton Reid 7:26
Cycling helped?

Hannah Ross 7:27
It’s likely helped that in a sense it in the way that being active and keeping your heart healthy help, but pushing yourself to a team. So not this has ever been my plan. But had I wanted to be a competitive cyclist, that would be completely out of the question.

Hannah Ross 7:47
So anyone in professional sport, who who has a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, probably wouldn’t be allowed to compete on a on a team. And the condition can make you very tall. So in the past, a lot of basketball players

Hannah Ross 8:06
later found out that they’ve had Marfan syndrome and then have to retire early.

Hannah Ross 8:11
But yes, it has it, it it generally take things reasonably easy. Don’t push myself too hard. But also don’t let it stop me cycling up the Pyranees. So

Hannah Ross 8:23
I have yeah, just live with it and keep doing what I’m doing.

Carlton Reid 8:30
And why did you write “Revolutions?” Why did you write a bicycle history book? Shouldn’t say history book was because there’s lots of modern stuff in there. Why did you write a book about women cycling and changing the world?

Hannah Ross 8:45
Because it hadn’t really been done before.

Hannah Ross 8:48
So I sort of had the kind of look around as I’ve gone there, because of the stories. The story about one of the you know, local offices, he said, you know a lot about the the kind of the story of women taking out cycling 30s ethically, in the 1890s is extraordinary. But following on from that the whole story of

Hannah Ross 9:12
the 20th century 21st. Just in all aspects of sight thing that’s really kind of incredible stories. A lot of them a lot of it is about overcoming obstacles and adversity and prejudice. And I just felt that those stories hadn’t been hadn’t had the focus that the perhaps they should have done.

Hannah Ross 9:36
And I wanted to make it a book that wasn’t about writing as a sport.

Carlton Reid 9:42
Because there is a lot there is a lot of

Carlton Reid 9:45
books about professional women cycling, but much less that kind of tries to cover all aspects of all different types of cyclists. I think it was quite ambitious, actually.

Hannah Ross 9:59
As I was writing, I was thinking, gosh, book’s getting long, longer is I’m trying to fit everything in. And if they’re meant that I couldn’t cover every story that I wanted to, which was a shame, but but I just wanted to, in some way show the kind of breadth of of cyclists and all the time kind of relate that back to how it’s been with the house how kind of fighting has been in feminist history from the Victorian times to now.

Carlton Reid 10:34
But let’s let’s go to that first because you mentioned that the world of cycling of racing is relatively well covered. There’s Beryl Burton, you know, there’s there’s books on Beryl Burton already. Clearly there’s, there’s some of the modern women superstars have got books out so that’s, that’s, that’s a given as well. But these other names, perhaps people aren’t quite so familiar apart from maybe Susan B. Anthony, because that’s obviously the quote that virtually every you couldn’t yeah, avoid that quote. Could you that is just you know, that’s that’s gold plated, it wrote on your kind of book, that’s just gonna be but so what is the quote? Let’s hear the quote and give us a bit of background on on because she was quite old at the time. Susan B. Anthony, she wasn’t a cyclist herself. She’s looking at other people.

Hannah Ross 11:19
No, she wasn’t a cyclist.

Hannah Ross 11:23
And now you’re testing me. Oh, my goodness. What is it?

Carlton Reid 11:27
Bicycling has done more to emancipate women basically. That is the gist of the quote, and

Hannah Ross 11:33
she calls it the freedom machine. Yes. Which is what are you have repeatedly as a kind of as a, as an image or freedom within? Yes, she was. He was completely by being able to never getting on a bicycle herself, she was absolutely identified that this was a revolutionary thing for women’s lives and represented this pinpoint, which is where feminism was at that point in time, and that the bicycle could be part of that and possibly symbolise some of that as well.

Carlton Reid 12:15
So why, why is it so important? Because you can get away from chaperones. It was independent did, why did Susan B. Anthony and many other feminists of the period, why did they latch on to bicycles?

Hannah Ross 12:27
Because Yeah, well, from what you’ve just said, it’s about getting away or not necessarily getting away, but just having freedom of movement. When women’s lives at this time or work, generally, I would say, defined by that containment, so they have no political rights, they have no economic rights, they’re little, and generally, this is not absolutely This is not everyone, but generally they I mean, obviously, you know, they didn’t have the right to vote at this point. But I mean their lives were fairly controlled. It even come to the close that they will, or were expected to wear full skirts, huge petticoats, miles of fabric, all of that it’s this idea of stopping them having the freedom of movement, bicycle comes along, it’s revolutionary for absolutely everyone. At this time. I mean, it’s hard for us now to kind of really imagine what that must have felt like, for anyone being put on this machine and beyond just travel somewhere with relatively little effort, places that they might never might never fasted before. They just couldn’t, before women in particular with ideas with their bodies moving through space, under their own power, to be able to decide where they want to go on their own terms. And as anyone who gets on a bicycle now today with say, what they love about cycling, it feels freeing, I feel like the kind of the language that follows us distinct like, like flying it’s you know, I just love that feeling of the wind on my face. So you can imagine that that you know, that bracket back then those things would have been even more precious.

Carlton Reid 14:30
And you mentioned clothing and right and that the volumes of clothing women were wearing back then and of course cycling. But bloomers didn’t originate with cycling. They It was a form of grass that came from outside, but it’s popularised very much. So yeah, by cycling and then this is called rational dress in effect trousers for women. So tell us about Lady Harberton. And because this is a famous case, that of course the Cyclists Tourist Club of the day took on so what did Lady Harberton do and and tell us about that?

Hannah Ross 15:05
Lady Harberton was a keen cyclist. And she was also very keen on not wearing and she was like things that she was an adopter of retinal dresses. You said the bloomers or Knickerbocker knickerbockers, the knee. And she was also. But it was it her it sort of ran into the night, it wasn’t just about that it was a practical outfit to be wearing on a bicycle, you know that we’re going to be caught up in a train, it wasn’t going to be dangerous. For her wearing rational dress was the sensible thing to be doing whatever you were doing. And t felt very, very strongly about that. And when on out on a bicycle ride in 1898, I think it was she was riding in Surreyi and wanted to stop and coffee at a hotel called te Hautboy. And she was barred from entering the coffee lounge. what was then called the coffee down on account dress or the lack of trust that they would have seen it. They were horrified that this woman wearing bloomers knickerbockers wanted to come into their their lounge and sit down with the other ladies. Just drink her drink her coffee, and they barred her. And instead they said you could sit in the bar. Which Lady Harberton I don’t think would have been not a fan of going to the bar at this point.

Carlton Reid 16:49
This was a cause celebre of the time this is this is a major news story. At the time. This wasn’t just like some little anecdote we’re dragging out. This is like a major story of the time of you know, a bolshie woman in effect, trying to get her own way in these these clothes. Now she lost the case. So she took the the landlady of the Hautboy at Ockham they would Cyclists Touring Club took that took her to court, or they took her lady Harberton took them to court, but they lost.

Hannah Ross 17:18
Yeah, on account of the fact that they did offer her somewhere which wasn’t acceptable. That it wasn’t it was unacceptable. She wanted to make a point to the fact that she should have been allowed to wear what she wanted to wear in especially wanted to be and like you say it was it you know, this isn’t a minor to fighting for Bori This is it is a really significant story that it’s really it’s not really about cycling, it’s about freedom to choose, you know how they draft and how they conduct their lives. And do you want to make the point of that and you know is extraordinary.

Carlton Reid 18:04
And the last time I was down there they were converting the Hautboy to apartments so I believe you can now live in this coffee lounge. It could be part of your your living room I’m sure because Ockham where it is is all that also Ockham’s Razor comes from, so 14th century whatever, mediaeval scholar he’s from the same Surrey village as as the Hautboy made just as famous in in the late 19th century. So women were pushing back where we’re asking you to wear which we think totally unshocking which is saying that we would quite like to wear comfortable clothes please while we ride ride our bicycles. But they’re also doing these amazing journeys which again, we we we hear many of the stories of like the male derring do you know the the male, you know going around the world but then you had this amazing woman Annie she’s has Polish?

Hannah Ross 19:11

Carlton Reid 19:12
Yeah. Londonderry was was uh, her name she like her pen name.

Hannah Ross 19:17
She adopted yeah a sponsored name. Yes.

Carlton Reid 19:20
And she basically she went round the world in 1890s writing about it as well and amazing woman and amazing journey.

Hannah Ross 19:27
Really extraordinary. I

Hannah Ross 19:28
mean, it is and how there’s not been a film made about this is it’s really quite baffling. So Latvian immigrant living in Boston. It’s a little bit hazy of the details of exactly why she got to the point of cycling around the world but but the story goes that human made a wager that a woman will one of them bet that the woman could have around the world in a certain amount of time and then the other one that they could choose decided to take Get on prove them prove that she could have never been on a bicycle before. It was her that took this on and why she felt that he was the one to do. I don’t think anyone quite worked out. But actually what followed maybe it proved why she did because this story is extraordinary. And what what Annie did is become first debaters drop off opposites for her epic voyage. And I think is fine, I thought for pointing this out, but she didn’t quite cycle around the world for quite a lot of boats and trains involved. Because it was never fully stipulated that you had the cycle. Everywhere that, that that dictated liberal use of public transport with was involved. However, there was an awful lot of cycling involved as well. So when she the first cyclists across the fabric of America came one way and then coming back and realise that if he couldn’t get as in mountains to California to take the boat East because those committees won’t get over. So she ended up going back to New York. And taking a bit from and when you set out in France, by the time you got to France to you was international celebrity and everywhere she went every crowd coming out, see her friends absolutely adored her. And all along the way she picked up like we mentioned, the sponsor by by Londonderry water, but many other folks as well and who to introduce it, fellas. Storytelling got quite an awful say. And there was a fair bit of embroidery about some of the answers or the painting she got involved in where he claimed, for instance, such she got a prisoner of war. That is happening internment camp that many of these things weren’t true. However, I think, as I said before, I think what is just still so amazing that this woman who left her husband and children go out on this journey would keep your life going and keeping me interested in what he was doing during she became a understandably a huge fan of rational progress. He set out on a lady’s drop frame critical to realise that that was an awful lot of effort. And someone gave her an amount bicycle locked into the man’s bicycle then and she never get back, that she was quite a good outlet as well for progressive women’s dress. And also just women going out in the world and being at ordinary things. I mean, this was a time of the Victorian Event Frame where people are going out and trying to push around the world and the number of days of talk of Nellie Bly, who was a journalist in New York who had marched around the world using every different form of transport. record

Carlton Reid 23:32
And isn’t Nellie Bly the one that’s the Susan B. Anthony is from in effect, it was at Nellie Bly was interviewing.

Hannah Ross 23:40
Yes, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Carlton Reid 23:49
Yeah, the record after I’ve just gone to the back of your book, and Annie Londonderry, her real name was Annie Kopchovsky. Yeah, that’s a cracking name. Annie Londonderry Kopchovsky. And I didn’t know the water bit, but that’s she’s sponsored by a water company and that’s why she picked that up.

Hannah Ross 24:09
Aside from her bicycle, I believe it’s kind of been great when you’re cycling long distances.

Carlton Reid 24:15
That’s great idea, though to change your name in effect. Yeah, no, cause Yeah, that’s that’s quite sweet. Now, you can’t really talk about the Susan B. Anthony, we’ve talked about emancipation, but you can’t really leave that particular subject without of course, think — suffragettes were big into bikes, weren’t they?.

Hannah Ross 24:37
Yeah, that was really lovely to discover and read about. It was Sylvia [Pankhurst’s] memoir. She talks about how Christabel became obsessed by cycling as a teenager and absolutely paid for their father for bicycles when they were still living in Manchester. And he first thought it was dangerous, but when first 16 for her birthday, he was given an up the bicycle. No expense spared, apparently. And then Sylvia was taught to accompany her sister given a not fancy bicycle. And they joined the Clarion cycling club, in both, and then at weekends and, and I think most of their spare time pedalling around the countryside lanes around Manchester, picking parting up camps and summer holiday camps and to return pair a newspaper, but generally just having a lovely time on bicycles. And, as far as I can, I mean, I don’t know. But I think when they moved to London and founded the WSPU, which is the women’s social and political union, which is suffragettes, they probably didn’t find too much time to fight thing. However, what is really nice is that cycling was still part of their movement was very influenced their movement. So they, their members, use their bicycle to recruit other members and spread the word about fit to women. Because that way, the most effective way of getting to the next place the next round, they reach those people, times before people come they had cars and planes weren’t going to take you everywhere.

Carlton Reid 26:32
Have you seen the illustration of the two suffragettes stopping Churchill’s car?

Hannah Ross 26:38
yes, yes.

Hannah Ross 26:40
And then bicycle halter became when the when the movement became much more militant. So when they were postbox is like houses bicycle s became getaway vehicle. quite quite amusing. There’s a story of two which I mentioned, they set light to an empty mansion. One evening, they get stopped by a policeman, not because he thinks that they are arsonists, but because they didn’t have the lights on their bicycles. But they were apprehended not long after

Hannah Ross 27:21
when the police put two and two together.

Unknown Speaker 27:27
But yes, they stored their arson equipment in their bicycle baskets.

Carlton Reid 27:35
So it’s quite radical in many, many different ways. So when you think of wearing trousers is radical, well, here, they are like firebombing stuff. So we’ve got some quite interesting bits of radicalization. And I guess the late Victorians were like pretty much mixing it all together. And you know, wanting a woman wearing to wear trousers, and and getting in front of you know, Churchill’s car and firebombing stuff was all pretty much the same thing as radical as as each other.

Hannah Ross 28:03
Yes. Although it’s, it’s also worth saying that, you know, for a lot of a lot of women who think outside time, it wasn’t, it was quietly radical, in the sense of, they were riding bicycles, but they didn’t necessarily see it. It’s such a visceral way in what they’re involved in. Kind of this will move over time. And they will probably less, you know, there are many that were less I need a bit more clear, they might have wanted to change them for us. They might have thought it was a good idea for trousers, but they weren’t quite ready for that. There’s, there’s interesting details in the history about how women sort of like, rushing to wear cleavers, they adapted that skirt, they still look like they looked like Victorian women’s skirts, but they have ever adaptions to make them safer for bicycling. So they got quite creative as well at this time. But yes, and obviously there were bicycles just covered. Thank god to me, I can’t pay for a few times to where it all starts if that’s if that’s where you felt comfortable.

Carlton Reid 29:22
Let’s let’s try let’s link those two subjects together using two women who are very much still with us. And that’s Sheila Hanlon. So is the the expert on suffragettes and bicycles and then Kat Jungnickel, who makes makes the events clothing which you’ve talked about there so so I assume you talk to both Sheila and Kat for your book.

Hannah Ross 29:45
I haven’t. I have read their books and read Sheila’s papers in the British library and credit the morning the book but yesterday, I mean, I have met Kat as well. But yes, they all Usually important women, historians and had a big influence on on where I went from my research as well.

Carlton Reid 30:09
So tell me about Kat because you haven’t met where you met her but you haven’t interviewed for the book as such. But just tell me a bit about what she said I’ve never had her on the show, I don’t think but just tell me what what her her clothing and what she does with it because it’s pretty clever

Hannah Ross 30:25
Kats says she’s researched in who painted the pattern that Victorian women were registering at this time for innovative cycling clothing, that wasn’t rational.

Hannah Ross 30:42

Hannah Ross 30:47
she has examples of women who were there’s one woman who made a skirt with a kind of pulley system. So within the layers of fabric, there were there was the ability to kind of pull call a lot of things in very well but the poor parts up so you could lift skirt up much shorter skirt when you’re on the bicycle. And then you could drop it right back down again. When you will suit. As soon as you’re off the bicycle for you. We’re back to being a Victorian woman in traditional Victorian fashion, you weren’t going to be upsetting anyone or losing an arm. And there were women who sewed weight in the bottom of the gut so that they didn’t fly up and reveal shocking amount of life. Yeah, cats don’t really extraordinary research in se women who actually went as far as registering patents. And it is very interesting at this time I have been through countless magazine cycling magazine from the 1890s. And they are full if you do one more purchase, or women have adverts for tailors, who will make these dresses or companies like Yaeger, who, at the time are very involved in making woolen cycling clothing, all save, inspired and informed by many of the women that who really kind of radicalised women’s cycling clothing, often in quite quiet and subtle ways.

Carlton Reid 32:45
People know about suffragettes, of course. But then you have in this period, you have the New Woman in an all in the first letters there in caps, very much an American phenomenon, but it’s not radical. As such, it was seen as semi radical back then. But what’s the kind of distinction between the New Woman mmovement and and suffragettes obviously, that there’s a there’s a voting element there, but could they be the same women or were they different movements?

Hannah Ross 33:19
New women preceded the suffragette movement, they preceded the WSPU, which was suffragette, but they were very much still wanting vote for women, but it was a WSPU that made that formal organisation. New Women that the term was coined in the 1890s and the suffragette organisation started in the early 1900s so it would have been exactly that market. Same demographic sorry, huh. Women who want to vote but also you know, often in education the right to have more freedoms and economic and political rights

Carlton Reid 34:18
so that’s that’s that was often a middle class Yes. to be doing that. But then you’ve got things like the Mowbray House Cycling Association which is which very much a thing that you could you could almost run today with like immigrant communities where you want women to get onto onto bikes from like Bangladeshi communities, for instance, because they would basically this particular organisation was set up by or funded by a rich journalist was basically trying to get working women on bikes because at this period that this wasn’t a working women’s form of transport, was it?

Hannah Ross 34:56
not, not in the early days, no bicycles. was fairly expensive in the first part, or the first half day tonight, so they got progressively more affordable. But yes and, and cycling was in its absolute peak of the 1890s was very much a society, women occupation. And they liked the fact that by

Carlton Reid 35:23
Lady Harberton gives you, that sort of thing doesn’t it’s like it’s posh people.

Hannah Ross 35:28
It really was and there’s actually that a film. I’m sure you’ve seen it Carlton, from 1896 of Hyde Park in the really, really only film. And it’s very interesting not to film in general, where you can see the society, people of London came around on a maybe a Sunday afternoon, in Hyde Park and all that in all their finery, what you can make out from it. It’s a very short clip, but it’s really amazing to have it. But yes, I talk in the book about various ladies. aristocrat to would would meet at Battersea. They tell half a huge breakfast or with 50 of their closest friends, and then all bets like playing or have players, where they would all then cycle through the streets of London afterwards. I mean, it was just such a fashionable thing.

Carlton Reid 36:26
So it wasn’t ladies that lunch, it was, you know, ladies who pedal.

Hannah Ross 36:30
The aristocracy finally moved on pretty quickly. But that’s, you know, they have, in a way helped stigmatise the idea of women on bicycles, which was which was which was useful. And the popularity method mass production was ramped up such that bicycles can keep keep up. And I believe that there were lots of methods of purchasing bicycles as well in kind of through two instalments. And by the leather secondhand market started ramping up as time progressed. So more and more women could afford it. But yes, the Mowbray House Cycling Association is really interesting. This is Sheila’s and she’s written a really interesting paper about it. And it was a way of making making work and women’s lives easier by by by giving them the ability to cycle to work and also be able to think they own careers a caravan and a holiday cottage for people that are members could actually go on holiday and get some time away from work and in London, which is a little bit the same as the Clarion cycling club was doing. Yes, and yeah, you mentioned the connection now with the various initiatives wonderful. I was involved in the boat project, which help refugees and asylum seekers learn to ride bicycles, and they have a programme specifically for women for pedal power. Which syndrome dried at the end of the quarter? They get given a bicycle. Which Yeah, it’s not it’s not a million miles and what was happening, it may vary.

Carlton Reid 36:54
There’s a there’s a film on I’m trying to think what it’s called Mama, something. Have you seen that film? It’s a Dutch film about Dutch woman who gets immigrant women on on bicycles. And it’s by the name, but I’ll put it in the show notes. Fantastic. It’s a fantastic film Mama something I did a whole story on it, and that now I can’t think what the second part of it is, but it’ll be Yeah, I’ll definitely send you a link for it afterwards.

Hannah Ross 38:59
I thought I knew every women’s cycling film, but obviously not.

Carlton Reid 39:02
Well, it this is this is a modern one. But it’s really really it’s really heartwarming stuff. So I’ll put in the show notes. I’ll send you so sticking, we’ll go back onto posh people actually. So because I’m pretty sure I’ve read this book online. I didn’t get this. I didn’t need to go and get this physically. I think you can get it on like And that is Maria Ward’s Bicycling for Ladies, which is so wonderful.

Carlton Reid 39:27
love I love that book. It’s Yeah,

Carlton Reid 39:31
it is posh. It’s a posh book, but just tell us a little bit about that. Yeah.

Hannah Ross 39:36
Maria Ward, lived in on Staten Island. And she was a member of the Staten Island cycling club to Staten Island in New York. And she decided to use up cycling and she decided that she would write a book to encourage and inspire and help other women who are interested in learning to ride a bicycle You’re cycling, which, which seems a slightly strange thing now because you think you’re learning to ride a bike, you would get on a bicycle and be taught by this doctor. And but for a lot of people this time, that wasn’t a wasn’t a possibility, although I should have been called at the time when he strengthened but they wouldn’t have been accessible to everyone. And she felt obviously felt that women needed extra encouragement and specialist information. So in it, she will talk about what she wore on a bicycle, whereas on a bicycle, and what appropriate, but there’s pages and pages of how you actually go about cycling. And one of the really interesting things that I talked about in the book is how much time she spends on on mechanics and fixing bicycles. And she is really, really, and she talks about having a bicycle workshop of her own, and then how joyous It is to be able to just pick a bicycle apart completely and flip back together again. And she’s she sort of, she thinks that all women should be poor, or learn the how to fix their own bicycles. So they’re not they can go out fighting on their own, which you really encouraged as well, even though she was passionate. Remember, he also felt that women should be going out and taking rides alone. That that was something that that thing, too, and they should do. And if they got a punture, when they were out that they would go for

Carlton Reid 41:50
It is a great book. I mean, she’s basically Jenny Gwiazdowski, I’m murdering that name. Of Bike Kitchen. Yes. In that book that has a modern resonance. You could get in Jenny’s book because Jenny’s written a book on how to build your own bike and all that kind of stuff. So so so as much as Jenny is a is an absolute barnstormer today, there were people like her doing that way back then.

Hannah Ross 42:17
And there’s quite a few of them and a surprising number of them doing this, which again, shows how popular how popular cycling was at the time that there was this market for it. But also that it felt that women needed there were women who needed a bit of extra encouragement and education to go have the courage to get up and get good.

Carlton Reid 42:45
So in your book, you do talk about participation numbers, and and how that has absolutely fluctuated through time. So what what are those numbers? Are we talking about it? Because it’s very often said, you know, if, if you have a cycling culture that welcomes, you know, you have lots of women’s cycling base, you must have a fantastic cycling culture. It’s that kind of thing.

Hannah Ross 43:10
Yes. And so very much depends on what country you’re talking about, as we all know, and then, and I’ve learned to mark have extremely high numbers of women’s acclaim. And in the UK and North America, it’s around a third of cyclists are women, which is the same as it was back in the 1890s. So it’s, it’s a bit of a shame that we haven’t really progressed since then, to equalise more. But yes, the and also cycling has has folded in and out of fashion. Again, depending on on where you’re talking about, but certainly in Europe, North America, you know, it’s, it’s almost unimaginable now to to how popular it was in the boom time of the 1890s. But by the 50s it was really, really declining. I mean, it already had to climb very significantly from the beginning of the 20th century onwards, but sort of 50s, 60s it was it was really really falling out of favour

Hannah Ross 44:25

Hannah Ross 44:28
it became you know, Carlton, stigmatises you typically you couldn’t afford a car but you it was it was on the rise at this point. So either is it depending on where you are in the world, it’s a very different story. And I don’t know I’m trying to have the same thing. It’s going out of fashion again, well, whilst it’s come back and fashion in Europe, North America. So it’s sort of up and down trajectory.

Carlton Reid 45:00
Well on that slightly depressing,

Carlton Reid 45:04
becoming more and more,

Carlton Reid 45:08
I’d like to cut to an break now, if you don’t mind, but i would i do want to come back and talk more. But right at this second of time, let’s go to David for that ad break.

David Bernstein 45:18
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices, and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is they’re on believable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors, and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s We thank them so much for their support. And we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 46:44
Thanks, David. And we are back with Hannah Ross. And we are talking about “Revolutions,” her new book that was out just earlier this month in April. Hannah was it women when it come out? Yes, that’s right.

Hannah Ross 46:57
Yes. First of April. All right. Okay.

Carlton Reid 47:00
And who’s your publisher, who should people go to?

Hannah Ross 47:04
Weidenfed & Nicolson.

Carlton Reid 47:10
Obviously, it’s a it’s a it’s a long and detailed books, we’ve just skimmed it a few names from from from the historical part of your book. But in the second half of the show, let’s let’s try and bring it a bit more up to date. But still still saying kind of like philosophy or this would still be ancient history. But let’s start with mountain biking, because Gary Fisher gets lots of credit. Lots of those those early guys get get lots of credit yet Wende Cragg very rarely gets talked about. Yeah, all those photographs, virtually all those photographs, which you see in Gary’s book, which you see, you know, the early days of the Klunkers as they were virtually all of them was shot by by Wende and you talked to her, didn’t you in your book?,

Hannah Ross 47:55
I did talk to her. yeah, she is still living in Mount Tamalpais, which is, which is where it’s kind of, I mean, it’s contested, but it’s sort of mountain biking, and when there was there for all of that, and they were her and her riding buddies. And yet, as you say she was she was the main photographer, but she was also doing the what was doing the kind of latent scene of downhill mountain biking, only fire roads and footpaths. And she was pretty much the only woman there. And yeah, I found this really, really fascinating, interesting part of the story of mountain cycling and mountain biking.

Hannah Ross 48:52
You know, mountain biking, I think seen as this kind of was back then this is very kind of male dominated, rugged,

Hannah Ross 49:01
rugged sport that sort of came out of this sort of alternative cycling theme where the other people who started I tear of mouth like I mean they invented new people inventing mountain bikes, they were sort of in our own bikes in order to handle these this rough terrain because they found they had been very many of them have been road cyclists and they found out that maybe a little bit stayed in rules driven and they thought Well, we know we have fun to cycling around on the mountain. Let’s make this a thing. let’s let’s let’s start racing down all these tracks.

Carlton Reid 49:46
Does she still ride?

Hannah Ross 49:47
I think she doest. I mean, she does a little bit. She still enjoys

Hannah Ross 49:56
going out on a bicycle.

Carlton Reid 49:58
Now, we talked before about Annie Londonderry Chopkowsky being a fascinating woman and this this next woman is guarantee is fascinating because she’s absolutely crackers. And I love here to bits. So that’s Jacquie Phelan. So Jacquie Phelan is again is another one of these amazing characters.

Hannah Ross 50:17
I think

Carlton Reid 50:19
yes, well, Missy Giove obviously but but but Jackie, I mean, did you talk to Jacquie?

Hannah Ross 50:25
A little bit

Hannah Ross 50:28
and she is, again, like when does she was definitely pretty much not quite to the very beginning is one of the very, very early on. And this was back when women that it was much less professional but less commercialised than it is now mountain biking, and they the women will compete on same course and then far less of them. But you had to be I think you probably did have to be quite a character to kind of go with the sort of it’s dangerous stuff that they’re doing. And it was sort of a lot of it was sort of made up as they went along. But he was involved for many years and she the she was there as a sport, the game started turning on much more professional and much more commercialised and there was much more money in it. But do one do one numerous record records and held many records. And she was also always, you could always note see that Jacquie was in a race because of her various outfits. I think he had a flux that she attached to her for bicycle helmets. And she her partner was a another very key mountain biker. And he was also a really extraordinary mechanic as well. So he was kind of inventing mountain bikes she was racing on and they were kind of really known as being bikes like that and they were really kind of revolutionary on the scene as well and kind of influence what mountain bikes became down a mountain bikes. She’s really extraordinary and she went on to form this kind of organisation which encouraged more women into mountain biking this time When, when, when it very few women still were getting involved because the image of it interested, I guess, for a lot of women’s it’s about over in.

Carlton Reid 52:52
That’s WOMBATS isn’t it?

Hannah Ross 52:53
Yes. And

Carlton Reid 52:54
Yeah, Women’s Mountain Bike and Tea society. I’ve got she gave me the as well as she gave me some patches to sew on to stuff with WOMBAT stuff on and she was at your to mention racing there. And she was beating men. You know, she was yes, there was there was certain women who she was very much competing with at the time, but she could be you know, men back then, you know now that’s not that’s not so surprising. But back then it was quite surprising that a woman was was was beating men in these mountain bike races. So she’s a wonderful so there’s so many characters in your book, which are absolutely larger than life. So so it’s great that you’re, you’re you’re you’re talking about all of these people accept the Annie Londonderry’s of this world. And you know, through to Jacquie Phelan. And then Ayesha McGowan is in your book. So he has been on on the show. So a black woman cyclists trying to break into the to the pro ranks. So she’s got a fantastic story as well. Did you talk to Ayesha?

Hannah Ross 54:02
I met her when she she came to London. Do an event. And I met her we have but yeah, she she’s in the last chapter where I I sort of try and as much as possible summarise what’s happening on the riding scene now across Well, great cycling, cyclocross and mountain biking and just the kind of push for more diversity. The women like I share, who is who’s been really kind of high profile and campaigning, and it’s really

Carlton Reid 54:48
diverse. So we have the suffragettes who were the radicals of their day, but then you’ve got like the Ovarian Psychos Bicycle Brigade. Now I’m assuming they’re Californian, would that be right?

Hannah Ross 55:00
They are LA based Yes. And they, their their thing is about reclaiming the street. For I mean, they’re, they’re extremely political. They’re very involved in anti gentrification movement in LA. They are a group of Latina women. dominant

Hannah Ross 55:26
in how to justify

Hannah Ross 55:29
location now, but when they started, they started these bike rides called the Lunar rides, which were there, but their monthly ride where they would ride around the streets of La together as a group of women. They felt that alone, they weren’t safe, or they felt that there was there was certain prejudice about them, as well, is just coming from different different places that some people felt they felt that some people felt that they shouldn’t be fighting. Because there are women that other communities felt that they fit the mould of cyclists that they weren’t white, middle class boards, expensive bike, that sort of, it’s really interesting that that kind of really captured a lot of prejudices and preconceived ideas about women is like it across many different levels. But yeah, for them, it’s, it’s, it’s about togetherness and empowerment, which, you know, we’ve talked about goes way back, its way back to the beginning of cycling. And they are still doing these Lunar rides, which is amazing. And they invite any woman or anyone identifying as a woman. And as this kind of movement of owning that street and enjoying cycling, having a good time.

Carlton Reid 57:17
And crazy though, that’s still a political statement. I mean, this is this is both male and female. Riding a bicycle You know, this in the 1890s was very often a political statement, just as today it can be just getting on a bicycle can be a political statement, which is which

Carlton Reid 57:31
is crackers.

Hannah Ross 57:34
Yeah. It is because I mean, more. So I’ve talked about in countries like Afghanistan and Iran, Saudi Arabia, where I’ve interviewed people, women, that are really, really very, very politically charged issue. And with with so many of the arguments about why women shouldn’t cycle that, so Okay, what was happening here and the 1890s and it is similar kind of cheers and the language isn’t, isn’t a million miles from, from what people were saying that as well. It’s saying, but but there are extraordinary women who are who are fighting all that now as well. And establishing something that women can do.

Carlton Reid 58:24
Well, Hannah, that’s been absolutely fascinating. Thank you ever so much for taking some time away from Cleo to be with us on today’s show. So to end would you mind telling us how we can get hold of your book and any social media things we should be aware of to get in touch with you?

Unknown Speaker 58:45
Yes, well, thank you so much for having me, Carlton. I’ve had a really enjoyable time speaking here. And should anyone wants to buy my book, it’s available from all the usual outlets and I am on Twitter, @HannahVRoss.

Carlton Reid 59:00
Brilliant. Thank you very much. And by the way, it was Mama Agatha. I did a quick search on that. So I did a story on on it was 2019 because they did a few teasers a couple years before that. Then they released the whole movie I think it’s probably on Netflix and stuff. So Mama Agatha. Absolutely right up your street, Hanna.

Unknown Speaker 59:23
Fantastic, I’m going to search it out.

Carlton Reid 59:27
Thanks to Hannah Ross, and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

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