The ‘Freedom Machine’ The New Woman and the Bicycle

Wikis > The ‘Freedom Machine’ The New Woman and the Bicycle

Wanggren, Lena. “The ‘Freedom Machine’: The New Woman and the Bicycle.” Transport in British Fiction: Technologies of Movement, 1840-1940. Ed. Adrienne E. Gavin and Andrew F. Humphries. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 123-53. Print.

Lena Wanggren’s chapter offers a brief grounding in the significance of the bicycle as a mode of transport that symbolizes modernity and democratization in the fin-de-siècle. While the chapter focuses on literary examples of women cyclists (with particular attention to fiction by Arthur Conan Doyle and H G Wells), Wanggren’s overall conclusion is valuable to the study of female representations of mobility. Wanggren’s reading acknowledges that the bicycle breeds sentiments of democratization and emancipation in figurations of the New Woman cyclist (133); however, she concludes that class limitations define the emancipatory potential of the bicycle (133). More than the bicycle itself as a democratizing force, Wanggren argues that textual and visual figurations of the bicycle assign the symbolic meaning of freedom for certain women.