March 14, 2022 — The Inkandescent Spotlight shines a light on: Bicycles, Birth Control, and Women’s Rights

Monday Morning Magic, March 14, 2022: American social reformer and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel — the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

I hadn’t thought about that truth until I saw a Smithsonian exhibit about the powerful relationship between women and their bikes:Indeed, the invention of modern bicycles in the 1890s afforded an accepted way for women to step outside and become a more significant part of society in business and politics. Speed for escaping chaperones. Less burdensome clothes for riding. Freedom!

“This simple mobility helped to accelerate women’s rights,” explains author Sue Macy in her breakthrough book, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom. “Imagine a population imprisoned by their very clothing; the stiff corsets, heavy skirts, and voluminous petticoats that made it difficult to take a deep breath, let alone exercise. Add to that the laws and social conventions that cemented a man’s place as head of the household and holder of the purse strings. How suffocated women must have felt. And how liberated they must have been as they pedaled their wheels toward new horizons.”

Access to birth control: “Suffrage laid the roots for women to expand their professional abilities, have access to higher education, fight for fairer wages, and expand their reproductive rights,” explains Jacqueline Pelella, communications fellow at The Power to Decide. “These changes bloomed with second-wave feminism in the 1960s, which fought for equal representation for women in the workforce. Women broke into previously male-dominated fields such as medicine, law, and politics. The question of birth control and family planning became a top priority for many women striving to achieve high career goals while also being a mother.”

In the 1960s, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pill: This allowed many women to plan — if, when, and under what circumstances — they wanted to get pregnant. In 1965, the US Supreme Court ruled that married couples could use birth control in Griswold v. Connecticut. It paved the wave for reproductive freedoms and birth control legalization to extend to unmarried women, as happened after Eisenstadt v. Baird. In 1970, Congress passed Title X of the Public Health Service Act, granting federal funding to family planning programs. By 1974, most states passed laws allowing women to access the Pill without parental consent. According to a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in 2013, these landmark Supreme Court decisions, along with FDA approval of the pill, helped women complete higher education, join the workforce, and climb the professional ladder.

The fight is not over: When the state of Texas banned most abortions last year, women let out a battle cry, including acclaimed Inkandescent client, award-winning documentary filmmaker Tracy Schott, the founder of Voices4Change. “I immediately called my friend Texas attorney Kelsey McKay, creator of the nonprofit RESPOND Against Violence, and asked: What are we going to do about this?”

What’s Abortion Got to Do With It? Their response is a three-part series that includes women’s advocate Erica Olson and unpacks the devastating impact of the law. They help us understand what it says, its potential impact on women currently trying to get out of abusive relationships, and what we can all do to stand up for the rights of women and children.

Please watch the series and join the fight for women’s rights: And be sure to check out the March 2022 issue of Inkandescent Women magazine, featuring a dozen women pioneers on a mission:

As we continue our celebration of International Women’s Month, we leave you with this parting thought from a 1985 edition of the San Francisco Call:“It really doesn’t matter much where this one individual young lady is going on her wheel. It may be that she’s going to the park on pleasure bent, or to the store for a dozen hairpins, or to call on a sick friend at the other side of town, or to get a doily pattern from somebody, or a recipe for removing tan and freckles. Let that be as it may. What the interested public wishes to know is, Where are all the women on wheels going? Is there a grand rendezvous somewhere toward which they are all headed and where they will sometimes hold a meet that will cause this wobbly old world to wake up and readjust itself?”

Until next Monday, I hope you jump on your bike and let the wind blow through your hair!  — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent™ Inc.

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