Bicycling in the Women’s Exponent

This week, I started reading Our Bodies, Our Bikes and found a quote from 1885 I hadn’t seen before, though it must be somewhat well-known as it’s quoted in the April 1985 Friend magazine in an article on the history of the bicycle.

The mere act of riding a bicycle is not in itself sinful and if it is the only means of reaching the church on a Sunday, it may be excusable.

This made me wonder if the bicycle was a hot topic in Mormonism, so I checked if it was mentioned in the original Women’s Exponent. And it was. Four times.

Chronologically, the first time “bicycle” was mentioned was in the June 15, 1892 issue, in an article written by someone with the initials “AWC.” She had gone on a trip to Heidelberg and wrote an article titled “A Day in Heidelberg” describing her experience. Her bicycle quote:

The city streets are narrow and crooked, the buildings tall and old and dark, and so shading the streets that it is positive relief to enter the principal promenade, the Anlage where the walks and drives are broader, and there among the border shrubs and trees are pretty rustic seats where one can watch the fashionable ladies ,the children with their nurses, the pretty girls with their staid chaperones, and the gaily attired students strolling, riding, bicycle riding.

The next time “bicycle” is mentioned is in the July 15, 1894 issue, in an article titled Saltair: A Famous Pleasure Resort about an “Old Folks Day” event held there. The editor states, “The Bicycle drill was a genuine amusement, and everybody enjoyed it immensely, judging from the vociferous applause.” I’m not sure what a “Bicycle Drill” consisted of. I’m guessing it’s some sort of race, but if anyone knows better, please share!

Also, that year, the “Miscellaneous” section of the September 1 issue, mentioned the bicycle. The “Miscellaneous” articles in each issue shared current news. This time the section included this:

Miss WILLARD and Miss Gordon returned to “The Eagle’s Nest” chalet, in the Catskill Mountains, July 27, where they will have two stenographers, and continue their work for the W. C. T. U. Miss Willard is to complete her “Handbook of History and Methods,” her booklet on “How I Learned the Bicycle, with reflections by the Way,” and, besides preparing her annual address, she will send out leaflets and articles for the press, and will write an editorial each week for the Union Signal, the organ of the White Ribbon movement.

Here, the Miss Willard is Frances Willard, a suffragist who founded the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W. C. T. U., above), which was symbolized by a white ribbon. Her friend, secretary, and biographer, Anna Adams Gordon later became the president of the WCTU.

The final mention of the bicycle in the Women’s Exponent comes from Elsie Ada Faust’s address from the Alumni Banquet at the University of Utah. Her speech was published in the February 15, 1897 issue of the Women’s Exponent and was titled, “The New Woman.” In it, she outlined what “the New Woman” is like and addressing the concerns that women were becoming “too independent” with treasures such as,

Writers and speakers have been so busy separating the sexes and theoretically endowing each with separate elements of character that they have not had time to see (and the misunderstanding of this subject depends largely on the lack of seeing) that there is no difference, for if we look well we will find that all the vanities and faults supposed to be wholly feminine may be found just as often in man as in woman; and all the noble traits and attributes of which men have assumed a monopoly appear just as often in woman.

I really want to share the whole address, but you can find it in the link above. She uses the bicycle as a metaphor in the next section:

Woman with bicycle wearing bicycling costume, c1895., Library of Congress

Woman with bicycle wearing bicycling costume, c1895., Library of Congress

The new woman, or rather woman in her new light, does not look down on her fellow man as is commonly supposed; not at all, for she knows however short he may fall below the ideal, she may not do any better. And you will find, though bicycle mounted, with her voluminous sleeves set to the breezes, she will not take more than her half of the road. All she asks is equal start and privileges down the race of life.

Victorian opinions on bicycles varied greatly, but it seems that Victorian Mormonism looked on bicycling positively. If you are interested in a great book on the intersection of first wave feminism and advent of the bicycle, check out Wheels of Change.


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General Women’s Session: Carol F. McConkie

Sister McConkieWe have a saying in my family, “Do all the good you can…” It is a phrase that I ponder often and it has affected the profession I’ve chosen, the callings I try to fulfill, the way I mother my children and interact with the people around me. This simple, yet expansive personal mantra has become the cause of my life and it is something that is incredibly meaningful to me.

I was thrilled when Sister Carol F. McConkie, 1st counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, began her talk by encouraging the young women, and by extension all the women of the Church, to have a cause. She argued that having a cause gives us a reason to act and serve in the glorious work of the gospel.

One thing I especially appreciated was that Sister McConkie immediately tied this great cause to Jesus Christ. After two talks focused on other issues, it was refreshing to hear such powerful words about the mission and atonement of our Savior and the role we can play in that.

I loved how McConkie emphasized that we are all valued and needed in the cause of Christ. She urged us to love one another and see the beauty in the lives and experiences of all of our sisters. She wisely counseled us not to compare ourselves to one another for that is wasted energy and doesn’t further the work of God.

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Gatekeepers Anonymous


By Jenny

Hi, my name is Jenny, and I am a recovering gatekeeper. A little while ago I had to leave for work at 4:00 pm and my husband wasn’t going to be home until 4:30 pm. I didn’t have time to make dinner for my family to heat up while I was gone and I’m afraid to say that I felt guilty about that.  Later that evening I came home to a nice dinner still warm in the oven for me.  I started being a gatekeeper the day I got married and it has gotten progressively worse with each baby that I have had.  I began to realize just how big my problem was when my fourth child was born three years ago.  I was facing burn out of an astronomical proportion, guilt mounting on top of guilt, and I barely had time to sit and breathe for a moment during the day.  Luckily for me I had a feminist intervention and now I only fall back into gatekeeping every once in awhile, like the other day when I started to ask my husband if I could go to book group and then caught myself midsentence and said, “I have book group on Friday.”

Do you have a gatekeeping problem?  You might not even know you have one.  I didn’t know for a long time, but now it’s a lot easier for me to recognize the symptoms.  For instance, one of the biggest arguments I hear against women holding the priesthood is this: “I don’t want the priesthood.  I have way too much to do as it is. I don’t need one more responsibility!”  Some might wholeheartedly agree with this statement, some might say that this woman is being selfish, but what I see is a mindset that I fully understand and am trying to recover from myself.  You see, I made this argument myself only five years ago.

I grew up in a culture that creates amazing gatekeepers in its women.  We are taught at such a young age, that the home is our main responsibility.  Not only that, but the home is the most important institution on the earth.  The home is the place where Mormon women gain most of their power and recognition within the culture.  This gives us the propensity to grab every ounce of responsibility we can get our hands on and not relinquish any of it.  My great responsibility in the home was instilled so deeply in me that I literally felt I was single-handedly holding up a house, and if I let go even just a little bit to grab something else my house would collapse.  So of course the priesthood did not appeal to me.  Neither did a job or anything else that wasn’t part of my home.  I was being crushed under a heavy load to the point where I couldn’t handle anything else.  If I reached out to grab the priesthood, my house would fall.   But at the same time I felt a sense of pride in my ability to hold my house up by myself without help.  I felt powerful, so I thought women who wanted more of the men’s responsibility must feel powerless.  They must not understand how powerful a woman holding a house can be.  I understood…or so I thought.

But I didn’t know then how much more powerful I could be by sharing the load.  I didn’t realize that if women reach to help hold up the church, then men can reach to help hold up the house.  If Mormon women could just understand that their house is not going to fall if they let go of a little bit of their responsibility, I think the priesthood and other life callings outside the home would feel more appealing to them.  I love being a stay at home mom, but I don’t love every minute of it.  I’m good at it, but I’m good at other things too.  Lately I have worked harder to try those other things that I am good at.  In doing so, I am finding that my husband is really good at doing things in the home.  These were things that used to be my responsibility, things that, due to the sheer volume of them, prohibited me from doing other things I loved.  I also discovered that my kids are much better than I thought they were, at being independent and helping out.  In fact, it’s my husband who brings that out of them.

Now that I am giving up gatekeeping, we have twelve hands to hold up our house.  Some of those hands are little and not so helpful yet, but nonetheless, our house feels more balanced and stable.  Now if I want to leave, I know I can leave my house in good hands.  I can spend time teaching yoga and writing, travelling, going to trainings and retreats, running races, working to bring money into our home(something that I never fully grasped the value of until I realized how much confidence it gives me).  If I was allowed to, I could sit on the stand at church while my husband handles the kids on his own.  It wasn’t something I ever considered before, but now I see the potential.  Lately I have noticed many women who would make amazing bishops or leaders in other priesthood capacities, and would greatly benefit their wards with their service.  The only thing holding them back is the fear that we have as Mormons to let men reach that hand out to help in the home while the woman reaches a hand into the men’s world of serving in the church.  I’ve been there.  I understand the fear, but now I see only the benefits.

It takes coordination and effort to keep that balance.  It may even require hiring extra hands for support or enlisting friends, grandparents, neighbors.  Some women don’t have an equal partner for support.  I think it’s important to build a community of support to help all women to feel that freedom of knowing that they can relinquish their responsibilities at times to find themselves and to express the other beautiful things that they have to offer the world.  The first step is to acknowledge that we have a problem.  Then we can help each other.  If you want a community of support to help you overcome your gatekeeping addiction, feel free to comment below with an acknowledgment that you have a problem.

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Comfort Food


Table for Ladies

“…..and please bless the refreshments that they will nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good that we need……”

I smirk silently, roll my eyes beneath piously closed lids and envision brownies, cookies and lemonade transfigured into fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, organic something-or-other, packed with protein and vitamins, all contingent on our scripted gratitude for the hands who prepared it.

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September Visiting Teaching Message- Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ: Powerful and Full of Glory

Link to the message on here.Lioness Roaring

The main story in this lesson is of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, which admittedly, is some pretty awesome power. However, as I tried to make a list things Christ did with or through power, I noticed they were quite varied. He had physical power over the elements: calming the waves, turning water to wine, feeding the 5000. He had power to heal the blind and sick. He also spoke calmly and powerfully when scriptural and traditional religious arguments were brought to him. He used his power to push cultural norms and customs when it came to talking with and eating with people of varying social levels. His power included showing emotion, being honest about fears and facing them, and forgiveness.

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Book Review: Fresh Courage Take

Fresh Courage Take

I can’t remember when I first heard about Fresh Courage Take, but can remember when I first knew that I would read it. It was earlier this summer, sitting beside a Provo splash-pad with one of the contributors, Ashley Mae, listening to her talk about renaming her faith crisis, and watching our children play. Ashley’s is such a clear, thoughtful voice. I suspected (correctly) that if it was included, the book would be clear and thoughtful, too.

She is joined by eleven other authors–eleven other women–who wrote down their truths and handed them to us, bravely, vulnerably, and strongly. Each one tells the smallest (slash biggest) part of what it means for her to be a Mormon women, as well as some of the courageous choices she has made in claiming ownership of her actions, beliefs, and story.

As we might expect from a group of twelve women, those stories and truths do not always look the same, and sometimes look quite different. This is as it should be. This is the strength of the book.

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