Milwaukee Bicycle Girl, won’t you please return?

This one has been around the block for about a week since Milwauee’s favorite gadabout Michael Horne dug it up in the Milwaukee Journal Archives.  It was published 113 years ago on August 14, 1897. It also appeared today on Copenhagen Cyclechic

Reading the text below almost brings me to tears it is so perfect. Apparently Bicycle Girls were everywhere in Milwaukee at one time.  Here I thought I was ahead of the curve trying to bring cyclechic to Milwaukee.  I guess I was born too late and missed my proper place in history during the first bicycle  boom.

The Bicycle Girl in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee bicycle girl is all right. She is of all sorts, all sizes, all ages, and all good looking. Sometimes she is very handsome. Bright, vivacious, interesting, wide-awake, and generally “up to snuff.” The Milwaukee bicycle girl is something Milwaukee is proud of.

Sometimes she uses the wheel as an accessory to show off a handsome costume; generally she uses it to get about town. Mostly she loves to ride and knows how. And she is not scarce. You can find her anywhere and everywhere. She rides to business in the morning. She rides home again in the evening. She does much of her hopping a-wheel. She takes long trips to the park and into the country. Of course she likes an escort, but if she doesn’t find one handy, why she can go it alone and do it up brown. She is to be seen at all hours of the day—and night, too, for the matter of that. She ride4s a good deal at night. When she has no male escort for a night ride she gets a female escort. That is the rule. There are exceptions, of course, but you can’t go by exceptions.

Ting-a-ling-ling! My, how she whizzes by! Nothing meek about her. She knows the rules of the road, knows what her rights are and knowing, dares maintain them. She is not bold or immodest. Far from it. It is not known that she is given much to flirting. She does look a bit roguish and—well, wicked isn’t just the word but it’s the only one in the language—yes, a little bit wicked at times. Graceful! Of course she is graceful. She rarely humps herself over her handle bars. She doesn’t look well that way and she knows it. She mostly has a very graceful and easy seat and carries herself a-wheel with the air of one knowing all about it. She rarely gets flustrated. Down Wisconsin street, through the narrow and often crowded funnel of a thoroughfare over the bridge, she sails along up Grand avenue, barely missing the hubs of passing vehicles, but she does miss them and it is not often she dismounts to make the passage.

Out in the parks where the road is freer she can get up a good bit of speed. She likes it, too, and her eyes sparkle with pure delight and her face flushes to rosy color with the healthful exertion. And even little accidents are a rare thing.

Her costume? Well, she is diversified in that respect. Generally it is the short skirt and high boots, with a natty hat. Sometimes she breaks through the conventionalities and wears a costume that no man would dare attempt to describe, but that all men turn and look at. But not often. Her modesty is a safeguard. She never dons anything immodest. But in the matter of costume she is as varied in her moods and choice as an April sky. Watch her from any prominent street corner almost any time of day—as there is little doubt you have already done it there is any poetry in your soul. Here she comes in brown—a soft chocolate brown— hat, skirt, waist, shoes and all. Even her hair and eyes are brown. Pretty? Certainly and as trim and neat and clean cut as—what sort of comparison can one make? None.

Then she rolls by in a gray suit. It is hard to tell which one prefers. She is charming in both. And here she is in a blue. And that seems to be about rightw also. It’s hard to choose. And this next one. A natty shirt waist and black skirt, and the trim figure goes by with the glint of the wheels in the sunlight and nothing is fairer.

The bicycle girl is not a dozen years old yet, and she is one of the great institutions of the country. How she has forged to the front! Take her off the streets and out of the parks and an element that gives much of the color and life we love to see would be gone. And would it not make a difference in color of her cheek and the brightness of her eye? Has she not found health and a better physical and mental development, as well as pleasures she never dreamed of before she rode the wheel? God bless the bicycle girl.


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Advocacy. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Milwaukee Bicycle Girl, won’t you please return?

  1. Todd says:

    I sincerely hope we are on the cusp of a new Milwaukee Bicycle Girl era. But I have yet to witness anyone on a bike, boy or girl, “going it alone and doing it up brown”. Seriously, what an amazing article. That last paragraph proved remarkably prescient. I cant help but think, what price progress?
    Welcome Back!
    See you at the Rampage, Santa.

  2. d'Andre Willis says:

    What a find! Yes, my how she whizzes by! May many more of the Bicycle Girl and her sisters return to streets of new Milwaukee.

    Really glad to see your post, Dave, thanks!

  3. Sonia says:

    “Let me tell you what I think about bicycling. It has done more to emancipate women than anything else in this world. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman on a wheel . . .”

    — Susan B. Anthony, Feb 2, 1896.

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