Fast Women: A Review Essay

Duncan R. Jamieson
Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio

M. Ann Hall
Muscle on Wheels: Louise Armaindo and the High-Wheel Racers of Nineteenth-Century America
237 pages, hardcover, ill.
Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press 2018
ISBN 978-0-7735-5465-8

In this review essay, Duncan Jamieson looks at a forgotten chapter in the history of women’s sport, cycling.

He traces the history of the bicycle back to the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in present-day Indonesia, which was one of the most powerful in recorded history, resulting in a global ash cloud which, among other things, affected the number of horses available the following years and led to the invention of the primitive bicycle known as the hobby horse. The history of the bicycle as we know it today had commenced.

Roger Gilles
Women on the Move:
The Forgotten Era of
Women’s Bicycle Racing

360 pages, hardcover.
Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press 2018
ISBN 978-1-4962-0417-2

When, in the 1870s, the high wheel, or ordinary bicycle appeared, women were eager to take advantage of this new, alternative means of mobility, in spite of the rather ineffective clothing for women dictated by fashion and propriety. Races for women became popular, and more so with the arrival of the safety bicycle, with two equally sized wheels.

The basis for the essay is two new books about women and cycling in the last decades of the 19th century.

Download the full-text article here!

DUNCAN R. JAMIESON, professor of history, came to Ashland University in 1978. His areas of expertise are, inter alia, in American History, Bicycling: Present and Past, American History: 19th & 20th Century, and Racism in America, Africa. His areas of research interest are in American intellectual history. His dissertation is a biography of John H. Gris­com (1809-1874), a leading New York City public health reformer and sanitarian. Duncan Jamieson is a regular contributor to


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