In the last 100 years, New Zealand has often led the way in women’s rights, from being the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote to having women dominate our political and legal scene.
The bicycle played a part in this revolution and not just in New Zealand. This article points out how in the United States, the bicycle gave women a new freedom of movement which inspired a movement away from traditional roles and attitudes.
There is a great chapter in the Kennet Brothers history of cycling in New Zealand, Ride: The Story of Cycling in New Zealand, that describes in some detail how cycling was important to women from the 1890s onwards. The Atalanta Cycling Club in Christchurch had as members some prominent suffragettes including Kate Shephard. It wasn’t easy for the first women cyclists:
The women met with some opposition from the public as they cycled around Christchurch and at time brothers of the women accompanied them on outings to ward off attacks by stone throwers.
Now of course things are much more equal. In Auckland, both men and women have the chance to have objects thrown at them. Ah progress!