Women in Transportation History: Maria E. Ward, Bicyclist and Author

In 1896, a book entitled The Common Sense of Bicycling: Bicycling for Ladies was published by Brentano’s, Inc. The book’s author was New York resident Maria E. Ward, a dedicated bicyclist and active member of the Staten Island Bicycle Club.

At a time when bicycling had become a favorite activity throughout the United States, there was already an overabundance of books on the subject. Bicycling for Ladies stood out among the competition, however, because Ward focused on the generally ignored but steadily increasing number of women bicyclists. Her book was a comprehensive how-to manual seeking to provide those women with both inspiration and practical instructions when it came to riding bicycles.

Ward conceded that there was widespread bias against the idea of women pedaling around on bicycles, but she also highlighted the liberation and other benefits that took shape after learning how to properly use that mode of transportation. “It is always a pleasure to do a thing well, whether it is handling a needle or using a screw-driver; and the art of using either is not difficult to acquire,” Ward noted in her book. “With the bicycle, it is necessary to know what to do; the human motor, unless pushed beyond reasonable limits, is self-adjusting.”

With ample use of both text and illustrations throughout the book, Ward covered everything from repairs and maintenance for bicycles to a training regimen for women. Bicycling for Ladies was not only read and promoted by women nationwide but also extensively praised for Ward’s encyclopedic knowledge of bicycles.

Maria E. Ward’s 1896 book The Common Sense of Bicycling: Bicycling for Ladies is available at https://archive.org/details/commonsensebicy00wardgoog/page/n10

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