HS – On the Move: The Bicycle, Women, and Social Change in the 19th Century


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Invention and Technology, Social Movements, Women
Theme
Gender Roles in Economic, Political, and Social Life
Town
Hartford, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Women’s Rights, Social Change, Technology, Bicycle, Invention, Dress Reform, Bloomers
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History

Historical Background
Early bicycles, also sometimes called velocipedes, were heavy, uncomfortable, and difficult to steer. High-wheel bicycles were developed in the 1870s and were lighter and faster, but quite dangerous. Albert A. Pope manufactured the first American-built bicycles in Hartford in 1878, but it was not until the development of the “safety bicycle” (with two equal-sized wheels and improved brakes) in the 1880s and 1890s that the national bicycle craze really took off and women started cycling in large numbers. The timing coincided with the first wave of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

To what extent are technology, fashion, and social reform interconnected?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What technological developments made bicycling more accessible to women?
  • How did the bicycle craze of the 1890s affect women in the United States?
  • What were the different public reactions to women who adopted “rational dress” and/or took up cycling in the 1890s?
  • Did the invention of the bicycle lead to social reform or was the bicycle an outlet for already-changing norms?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Walking Dress
Walking Dress, ca. 1870-75, silk – Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 1956

 

Detail of Patent number US555211A, Bicycle-skirt, Ella H. Cooper, Meriden, CT, Application date: July 18, 1895 - Patent date: February 25, 1896 - United States Patent Office
Detail of Patent number US555211A, Bicycle-skirt, Ella H. Cooper, Meriden, CT, Application date: July 18, 1895 – Patent date: February 25, 1896 – Click to download the full pdf from the United States Patent Office

 

Patent # US000597867, Dress-guard for bicycles, Emerson P. Turner, Norwich, CT, Application date: February 18, 1897:
Detail of Patent number US000597867, Dress-guard for bicycles, Emerson P. Turner, Norwich, CT, Application date: February 18, 1897 – Patent date: January 25, 1898 – Click to download the full pdf from the United States Patent Office

 

Mrs. C. D. Smith with bicycle
Portrait of Mrs. C. D. Smith with bicycle, ca. 1890-1899. Photographer Everett Augustus Scholfield – Mystic Seaport

 

Two women sit on a split rail fence, ca. 1890-1899. Photograph by Edward H. Newbury - Mystic Seaport
Two women sit on a split rail fence, ca. 1890-1899. Photograph by Edward H. Newbury – Mystic Seaport

 

Ladies Cycle Club of Hartford, 1890. Photograph by Charles T. Stuart - Connecticut Historical Society
Ladies Cycle Club of Hartford, 1890. Photograph by Charles T. Stuart – Connecticut Historical Society

 

“Her Choice.” Illustration from Puck magazine, July 7, 1897
“Her Choice.” Illustration from Puck magazine, July 7, 1897, p. 16 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Suit over Bloomers
“Suit over Bloomers.” The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, New Haven, Connecticut, April 6, 1899 – Click here to link to the entire page Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congres.

Although the legal case in question was heard in England, it was covered on the front page of this newspaper from New Haven, Connecticut.

Excerpt from journalist Nellie Bly’s interview with Susan B. Anthony
Excerpt from journalist Nellie Bly’s interview with Susan B. Anthony. Originally published in “Champion of Her Sex,” New York Sunday World, February 2, 1896, p. 10.

 

page

 

Download a pdf of the quote.

 

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

1)    As a short introduction, start by displaying the image(s) of the 1870-75 walking dress. Have students make observations, always backing up their comments with evidence they can see (e.g. “What do you see that makes you say this dress is fancy?” “The lace and the silk fabric.”) Then ask for reflections based on what they see—what they think about the woman who might have worn a dress like this and what her life might have been like. If it does not come up in discussion, you may want to prompt with the question of whether this kind of “walking dress” would be practical for what today we might consider an “active lifestyle.”

2)    Next, break the class into two groups, having each group examine one of the patent documents, either online or in hard copy. Have students determine the who, what, where, when, how, and why of each patent, including what problem the patent-seeker was trying to solve. Have one or two representatives from each group present their patent briefly to the other half of the class.

Together as a group, ask students to share their thoughts or questions regarding the patents and how they might connect to the time period in general.

3)    Next, display or distribute the three photographs showing Connecticut women and their bicycles. Using the Library of Congress Analyzing Photographs & Prints process, ask students to observe, reflect, and question. What clues do these images give us about the role of the bicycle in these women’s lives?

4)    Together as a class, examine and discuss the satirical illustration from Puck and the “Suit over Bloomers” article. Use evidence from these sources, as well as the earlier sources, to address the supporting question: What were the different public reactions to women who adopted “rational dress” and/or took up cycling in the 1890s?

5)    Conclude the activity by displaying or reading out loud the excerpt from journalist Nellie Bly’s interview with Susan B. Anthony in 1896 (pdf of the quote above).

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling… I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent.”

“And bloomers?” I suggested, quietly.

“Are the proper thing for wheeling,” added Miss Anthony promptly. “It is as I have said — dress to suit the occasion. A woman doesn’t want skirts and flimsy lace to catch in the wheel. Safety, as well as modesty, demands bloomers or extremely short skirts. You know women only wear foolish articles of dress to please men’s eyes anyway.”

Discuss students’ reactions to these statements, coming from one of the best-known leaders of the women’s rights movement at the time.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  • Imagining themselves in the 1890s, students will design a full-page newspaper advertisement for bicycles (or bicycle clothing) targeted—at least in part—to women. They should draw on some of the persuasive imagery or ideas from the primary sources examined. To expand students’ background knowledge, you may wish to have them read some additional writings about women and bicycling from the time (see “Things to Do,” below).
  • Students will conduct online research using newspapers, periodicals, or secondary sources to compare the reaction to the “rational dress” movement in the 1890s to that of other “controversial” fashion issues in later history: miniskirts in the 1960s, changing styles of sportswear for women, school uniform requirements, t-shirts and free speech, etc.
  • Students will create a timeline of the women’s rights movement in the United States, starting with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and continuing to the present. The timeline should incorporate relevant technological and fashion innovations, as well as other political and social events and landmarks.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

HS – Connecticut Women and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Suffragists

TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Social Movements, Women
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
Hartford, Norwalk, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Women’s Rights, Suffrage, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Voting, Reform Movements, Politics, Anti-Suffrage Movement, 19th Amendment
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History

Historical Background
The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) argued that together the Fourteenth Amendment and Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution actually guaranteed women the right to vote, but the idea was rejected by the Supreme Court in the 1870s, leading to the push for an all new amendment securing women’s right to vote. The proposed Nineteenth Amendment passed the House on May 21, 1919, and the Senate on June 4, 1919. Both Connecticut senators voted against the amendment. Thirty-six state legislatures needed to ratify the amendment; the last of these did so August 18, 1920. Connecticut did not ratify the legislation until September 14, 1920, after the Nineteenth Amendment had already gone into effect.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How have American concepts of freedom and equality changed since the 1870s?

How might the changes be perceived differently by different segments of the population?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • Who had the right to vote in the United States in 1870?
  • What strategies or arguments did supporters of women’s suffrage use to win the right to vote?
  • Are the voting rights of traditionally under-represented groups protected in contemporary America?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Declaration and pledge of the women of the United States
“Declaration and pledge of the women of the United States concerning their right to, and their use of the elective franchise.” Isabella Beecher Hooker, 1871 – Connecticut Historical Society

In 1871 Isabella Beecher Hooker, an advocate for women’s rights from Hartford, Connecticut, organized the convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. This document was written and signed the same year.

page

 

Download a transcription of the document – pdf

 

You may wish to add one or more of the following photographs to your inquiry investigation:

Arrest of White House pickets
Arrest of White House pickets Catherine Flanagan of Hartford, Connecticut (left), and Madeleine Watson of Chicago (right), August 1917 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Records of the National Woman’s Party

 

helenaweed_loc275034r
Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk, Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner, “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” 1917 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Records of the National Woman’s Party

 

Party members picketing the Republican convention
Party members picketing the Republican convention, Chicago, June 1920 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Using SOAPSTone analysis, the Library of Congress Analyzing Primary Sources process, or another method of your choice, have students investigate the “Declaration and pledge of the women of the United States concerning their right to, and their use of the elective franchise.”

  • Who created this document?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • When and where was it created?
  • What was going on in the country at the time?
  • What was the context?
  • What is the subject matter?
  • Which sentences or phrases particularly stand out?
  • What arguments are being made?
  • What does this document make you wonder?

Discuss the questions raised by the document and help students shape them into stronger questions to guide further inquiry. Discuss what sources (both primary and secondary) might help students learn more.

You may then choose to introduce one or more of the later photographs listed above into your inquiry, following investigation of the document. Use a similar process of OBSERVING, REFLECTING, and QUESTIONING to guide students’ exploration and analysis (Download Library of Congress teacher guide – PDF or student worksheet – PDF).

Together the document and photographs can help students develop a richer response to the supporting question above (“What strategies or arguments did supporters of women’s suffrage use to win the right to vote?”), as well as to the compelling question.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

1) Students will use historic Connecticut newspapers available through the Connecticut State Library Digital Collection or Chronicling America, as well as other primary-source materials found online, to learn more about the arguments posed by both the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements in the early 1900s and the reaction to these arguments in the media. Students will then imagine themselves in 1919 and write a letter to the editor of one of the Connecticut newspapers advocating a position based on evidence gleaned from various primary sources of the time.

Additional sets of primary sources relating to national women’s suffrage can be found at:

2) Students will research contemporary voter registration and voter turnout data and create a video, billboard design, or social media campaign encouraging a target audience (which they will identify) to register and vote.

Here are a few online resources that are available:

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO

HS – “Making Munitions is a Woman’s Job” During World War I

by Edward Dorgan
Lewis S. Mills High School, Burlington


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Women, World War I, Work
Theme
Gender Roles in Economic, Political, and Social Life
Town
Bridgeport, Statewide
Related Search Terms
WWI, The Great War, Womens Rights, Defense Work, Equality in the Work Place

Social Studies Frameworks

High School – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What impact did the women of Connecticut have on the Great War (WWI)?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What is the message of the “Every American Woman” advertisement?
  • Who is being targeted?
  • What emotional reactions does the writer seem to be looking for from readers?
  • Why do you think this broadside was published in the Bridgeport Times & Evening Farmer?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Advertisement from The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. Bridgeport, Connecticut, September 20 ,1918 - Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress
Advertisement from the Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. Bridgeport, Connecticut, September 20 ,1918 – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Advertisement from the U.S. Employment Bureau published in The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer newspaper on September 20, 1918, page 12, that offers arguments for why American women should work in armament factories during the Great War (WWI).

image

Download the image.

 

image

Download the Library of Congress – Analyzing Newspapers – PDF.

 

 

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY
  1. Students will analyze the U.S. Employment Bureau’s advertisement, “Every American Woman,” and answer the supporting questions.
  2. Students will annotate the words and images in the primary source, including those linked to patriotism and making connections to earlier historical events (previously studied).
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  1.  Students will create their own advertisement/poster to recruit residents of Connecticut to assist in the effort to help win the Great War (WWI).
  2. Students will design a WWI monument that recognizes the war efforts of Connecticut residents on the home front.
  3.  Extended Learning: Students will research other primary-source materials (see below for suggestions and links) and write an editorial for the Hartford Courant arguing the importance of the role Connecticut women played in the Great War (WWI).
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Articles to READ

Grade 8 – Accused: 17th-Century Witch Trials

by Christine Jewell
Fairfield Museum and History Center, Fairfield


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Belief, Crime & Punishment
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Gender Roles in Economic, Political, and Social Life
Town
Fairfield, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Witch Trials, 17th Century, Witchcraft, Salem, Witch Hunts, Puritans
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 8 – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What factors led to the 17th-century witchcraft trials in Connecticut?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • Were religious or social differences tolerated in the 1600s?
  • Did everyone have equal protection under the law at the time?
  • Why were women particularly targeted as witches?
  • Could something like this happen today?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Detail from Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions by Joseph Glanvil. Library of Congress.
This image comes from a very popular book published in London in 1689. It claimed to record “true” supernatural events and probably influenced many colonial thinkers, including Cotton Mather, the author of the 1693 book, The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England: and of Several Remarkable Curiosities Therein Occurring. In this detail, women gather with the devil in a wooded area.
Illustration from The Kingdom of Darkness by Nathaniel Crouch. London, 1728. World Imprints Collection, Connecticut Historical Society.

 

Although it was published more than 30 years after the last of the Connecticut witch trials, this image illustrates the enduring belief, shared by most New Englanders in the 1600s, that the devil could influence witches to use magic against others.
Elizabeth_Clawson_Mercy_Disbrough
Charges of Catherine Branch against Elizabeth Clawson (Elizabeth Clauson), Mercy Disbrough (Mercy Disbrow) and Goody Miller, 1692. Samuel Wyllys papers, Connecticut State Library.
Transcription from the Connecticut State Library: cathoran branch aged seventeene years or theare abouts/ testifieth and saith that som time this last somer shee saw {good}/ {wif} and felt good wife closon and marcy disbrow afflict/ hur not together but apart by scraching pinching and wringing/ hur body and further saith that good wife {cason} \clason/ was the first/ that did afflict hur and affter wards marcy disbrow and/ after that somtimes one of them and som times \the other/ {crossed out} of them/ and {crossed out} in her affliction: though it was night yet it appearing/ as light as noone day sworn in court septr 19: 1692 attest J Allyn secyr/
Elizabeth_Seagar
Case of Goodwife Seager (Elizabeth Seagar), Testimony Of Robert Sterne, around 1662-1665. Samuel Wyllys papers, Connecticut State Library.
Transcription from the Connecticut State Library: Robt Sterne Testifies as/ followet[h]./ I saw This woman Goodwife Seage/ in the woods w[i]th three more wome[n]/ and wit[h] them {these} I saw two/ black creatures like two Indians/ but taller I saw likewise a Kettle/ there over a fire, I saw the wome[n]/ dance round these black Creatures/ and whiles I looked upon them one/ of the women G Greensmith sai[th]/ lookr who is yonder and then they/ ran away up the hill. I stood still/ and the black things came towards/ mee and then turned to come/ away: He further sait[h] I know the/ F[a]lons by their Habits or clothes/ haveing observed such clothes on/ them not long before:/
Katherine_Harrison_Smith_testimony
Case of Katherin Harrison (Katherine Harrison), Testimony of Rebecka Smith (Rebecca Smith), 1668. Samuel Wyllys papers, Connecticut State Library.
Transcription from the Connecticut State Library (excerpted): Rebeckka Smith aged about 75 theares testefieth as followes/ that … Goodwife Gilbert the wife of \Jonathan Gilbert/ … had/ a black Capp which shee had lent to Katherin Harrison, and Katherin/ Harrison desired {desired} to have the saide capp, but Gooddy Gilbert/ refused to sell it to Katherin, after Goodwife Gilbert wore the saide/ capp and when shee had the capp on her head her shoulders and head was/ much afflicted, after the capp beinge pulled of, Gooddy Gilbert saide/ she was well, again \a certain time/ after Gooddy Gilbert wore, or put on the saide/ Capp: then shee was afflicted as before; the saide capp beinge/ againe pulled of Gooddy Gilbert againe saide shee was well, thus/ beinge afflicted severall times, it was suspected to be by witchcraft/ after the saide Rebecca Smith, herd say the capp was burned./
Katherine_Harrison_testimony
Case of Katherin Harrison (Katherine Harrison), testimony of John Welles. Samuel Wyllys papers, Connecticut State Library.
Transcription from the Connecticut State Library: when my father lived in the house where Joseph/ wright liveth some evenings our cows were late/ before they came hom and my mother sent me/ to see if I could mete them I went once or twice/ but the second time I was sent I went about half/ way crosse the street and could goe no further/ my legs were bound to my thinking with a nap/ kin but could se nothing I looked foward {for}/ {ward} the cattle that were in the street by good/ man nots shop and I saw good wif harrison rise/ up from a cow that was non of her owne with/ a pail in her hand and made hast home and/ when she was over her own stile I was loosed/ June 29:1668/ This was about 7 or 8 years ago John welles/ / This was owned and acknowledged/ by John wells before me Samll welles/
page Because the language in the court documents can be difficult for students to read (little punctuation, inconsistent or archaic spelling, etc.), a PDF with slightly adapted transcriptions is provided HERE.
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

For background information about the witchcraft trials in Connecticut, download the Fairfield Museum’s “Accused: Fairfield’s Witchcraft Trials” Educator Guide (www.fairfieldhistory.org/education/teacher-resources/) prior to teaching the lesson.

Begin the activity by having students examine one or both of the historic images as a class, in small groups, or individually.

  • Describe what is going on in the image(s). What is the setting? Who are the figures? What are the activities?

Break students into smaller groups, each with one of the court documents (including the transcription).

  • What details can be gleaned from each document?
  • Who is being accused? What can you learn about this person from the text?
  • Who is doing the accusing? What can you learn about this person from the text?
  • What are these people being accused of?
  • What can you infer from the testimony about why this person has been accused?
  • What beliefs or values held by the accused or the accuser are suggested by the testimonies?

Have each group share their discoveries and note similarities and differences.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Have students supplement their conclusions from the inquiry activity with information from additional resources (see below for some suggestions) to help them develop answers to the compelling and supporting questions posed at the beginning. Conclude with a discussion or writing activity based on the questions: Could something like this happen today? Does it?

For a further connection, investigate with students accusations of witchcraft in contemporary Africa and Asia.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ