Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1894
Eight strong and courageous bicycle riders of Chicago can bid defiance to the somberless male cyclists to beat them at 100 yard runs. In any kind of weather and over any kind of roads over which wheels can be ridden these women have the pluck and endurance and speed to ride even with the best flyers who put “centuries” to their credit.
These eight representatives of the gentler sex are members of the Century Club of America, a national organization possessing a large membership in this city. A member also makes a “century” run is entailed to a gold bar which is then suspended from the club badge. On the bar are engraved the club initials and the date of the run.
Some of these women always have crowded the line in their hundred-mile jaunts. Two have ridden more “centuries” than any other women in the West.
Mrs. Fred McEwen and Miss Alice Waugh divide between them the honor of being the first to demonstrate that “century” riding is not outside the province of womankind. Miss Waugh was a teacher in the city schools. Her experience was short, for her first “century” was her last.
Mrs. McEwen is a wheelwoman of note. Her rapid, graceful riding is famous throughout the bicycle world. In many a fierce “scorcher” she has easily outstripped the best of the boys. Three bars are suspended from her badge, but she emphatically declares “century ” riding to be nonsense for either men or women, 100 miles in ten hours requiring in her opinion too great and dangerous an expenditure of strength. Although she has been a wheelwoman for seven years and intends to accomplish an immense amount of future riding it is not her intention to undertake another “century.”
Miss Lizzie Hegerty’s fifteen bars bear witness that she is the champion woman cyclist of the West. She has used a wheel for five years. Her 100-mile runs have been principally to Elgin and Aurora and back, but she also has run to Kenosha and Milwaukee. She smiles when describing her first “century.” It was in October, 1891, and was a far greater achievement than her later triumphs, for she rode an old solid tire wheel that weighed fifty pounds, a striking contrast to her present dainty machine of twenty-five pounds weight. She traveled 3,000 miles on the bicycle last summer, and often rides twenty-five miles in a summer evening. Miss Regerty is a tall, handsome young woman, with an exquisite complexion which her excursions in sun and wind do not appear to injure. Her fifteen bars are made into a chain for her watch. If nothing interferes, the chain will be lengthened by a number of additional bars when another season is over. Her cycling dress is a dark Eton suit, the skirt as narrow as possible, with rubber stirrups to keep it in place. She is a bookkeeper in the office of a bicycle company. With superb strength she walks to and from business when the streets are not in condition to make the use of a wheel possible. Her home is three and one-half miles from the office. So her stroll is seven miles daily.
Miss Regerty’s constant companion in her riding is Miss Lucy Porter. That the latter has the brilliant record of fourteen “centuries” is proved by the handsome necklace, composed of fourteen of the Century club bars, that adorns her throat. But though such honors count high Miss Porter can claim greater; she is the first Chicago woman brave and plucky and sensible enough to adopt the use of trousers. She has inaugurated an era. She made her first public appearance in this costume on the occasion of the run Of the Illinois Cycling club to Riverside, early in the month. The suit is trousers extremely graceful and pretty, with no hint of immodesty or unwomanliness. It consists of exceedingly gathered in at the knee; jersey leggins and a long coat-like basque with vest end revere. A bicycle cap gives the last jaunty touch.
The effect is charming, grace and comfort being harmoniously blended. Miss Porter’s sensations on her first experience with this costume are best expressed ia her own words. She said:
“I felt dreadfully nervous. I became so weak I could scarcely ride, but when I entered the club and all the boys came up and shook hands witb me and congratulated me I began to feel better. But I grew nervous when we started out. I fully expected to be hooted and hissed and yelled at all along the route, but, though people stopped and stared at me, I was not tho recipient of any insulting attention until we reached the outskirts of the city, when a group of silly, half-grown boys indulged in cat-calls. But I had got my courage up by that time and didn’t mind it. It took lots of nerve at first, though.”
“How did the new suit affect your riding?”
“I doubled my usual speed, although we were facing the facing the wind. I kept in advance of the club without an effort, which I could not possibly have done in ordinary dress. My wheel seemed five pounds lighter. A skirt is a nuisance. It gets soiled and torn and constantly tangles in the wheel. I was delighted with the experiment and shall never ride in skirts again.”
Miss Porter is a stenographer. She proposes to use her new costume habitually in riding to and from business, keeping a skirt at her office to slip on during working hours that susceptible callers need not be shocked by her attire. This young woman’s independence and courage, wheelmen say, cannot be too highly praised. Her friends believe she has struck the keynote of dress reform not for bicyclIsts only but for a all business-women. Her costume is an ideal work dress.
These two companions rode last summer on their wheels to Clinton, In., and return. Two years ago they explored the interiors of New York, Massachusetts. and New Hampshire in the same manner. Both are expert with the camera; their kodaks are taken on each trip. and they possess fine collections of views of the sections they have visited. They contemplate a trip by wheel to New York and back the coming summer.
Among the Chicago girls first brave enough to attempt the famous “century” run, was Miss Hilda Peterson. Two bars bear testimony to her successful efforts. She is a vigorous and graceful rider, but thinks 100 miles too long a ride for a woman and doubts if she ever attempts to win her third bar. She uses her wheel for pleasure merely, not for honors. Her favorite cycling consists of a bell skirt, Eton jacket, and Stanley cap.
Two sisters in Ravenswood, the Misses Stahl, belong in the honored list; one has made three runs, the other one.
Miss Hattie Bicker has made rather a unique record. She rides a “century” just once a year, but she rides on time and invariably comes in first. She has three bars.
That bicycle riding is conducive to health is the enthusiastic and unanimous verdict of these expert wheel-women. Miss Porter’s innovation in dress is most favorably received. Women who dread to become conspicuous by its use in sunlight are planning to slip out with it on after dark. As the weather becomes milder the boulevards promise to be filled with sprightly girls enjoying the comfort of wearing trousers under the less tell-tale gleams of electricity.
By Victoria Shead March 30, 2021
By 1895 a new crop of athletic young women defied the odds to race bikes, and one woman quickly rode her way to victory and newspaper fame. Her name was Tillie Anderson.
Tillie Anderson was a Swedish immigrant who arrived in Chicago in 1889 as a teenager. A seamstress, Anderson, caught bike fever and saved for a bicycle. Soon she wasn’t just riding but also racing. She raced in 130 races and took first place in 123 of them. During the summer of 1895, she took part in the race over the Elgin-Aurora (Ill.) century course. She finished the race with a time of 6:59:30, beating the previous women’s record for that course by 18 minutes. This being her first race quickly helped to set her mark in HERstory.
Tillie later traveled around the country taking part in six-day bicycle races for women, which involved racing at top speed two hours each evening for six consecutive days. In 1896 she competed in a race in a 16-lap race in Detroit around the city’s auditorium building for a total of 18 hours spread over six days. By the second day of the race, Anderson was not only speeding past the other riders but establishing a new world record for female cyclists when she reached the threshold of 100 miles around the track in an unprecedented four hours, 47 minutes, and 30 seconds.
Tillie’s secret also seemed to be, as one newspaper commented, the ability “to ride and think at the same time.” She liked to keep the lead but always looked shrewdly for the best moment to sprint ahead to the finish line. Anderson was 20 years old when the League of American Wheelmen recognized her as the best woman cyclist globally, which she held until her forced retirement. In 1902 women were barred from racing after another racer, Dottie Farnsworth, was killed in a non-racing circus cycling event. After her racing career, Tillie helped establish bike paths in Chicago and remained an advocate for bicycling through the years. She also remained active in the League of American Wheelman and the Bicycle Stars of the Nineteenth Century organizations until she died in 1965.
In June 2000, 105 years later, Tillie was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame, an undisputed champion and a true pioneer in women’s cycling history.
Tillie Anderson Shoberg wears a costume worn by women cyclists in the early 1890s. Shoberg was known as “Tillie the Terrible Swede.” An immigrant from Sweden, Shoberg was known as the best female bicyclist in the late 1800s. She competed until 1902 when the League of American Wheelmen banned women from racing.
The Referee & Cycle Trade Journal, May 14, 1896
In this connection the Referee regrets to have to call a halt on Miss Tillie Anderson. This young woman has been indulging in a little game to secure some free and valuable advertising that is not usually played by riders of honest ambition and straightforward policy. In the full knowledge that she was ineligible, she forwarded her entry for the Chicago road race, thereby getting, practically by false pretenses, a considerable amount of printed prominence, which to a professional, male or female, is a consideration of much value.
The Wheel, February 9, 1899
Sewing Machine Supplies Profitable.
Manager Robie, of the Excelsior Supply Co., 88 and 90 Lake street, Chicago, is being complimented and justly so by a host of friends, on the magnificent new quarters of his company. They are new in every sense of the word, as the fittings, from the large plate glass windows to the numerous office fittings, are all brand-new and the four stories of the building are well filled with a splendid array of bicycle and sewing machine supplies, which practically covers everything the trade re- quires. Mr. Robie stated that it was his opinion that bicycle dealers could with heavy profit to themselves carry a line of sewing machine supplies in conjunction with their bicycle supplies, and many of the firm’s customers have dedcided to do so.
The Excelsior Supply Co. has just gotten out one of the neatest and most handsome 30- page lithographed books, in which the story of Excelsior is told in verse, with lithographed illustrations. A peculiar feature of this book is, there is no suggestion of advertising in its pages beyond the word “Excelsior,” made famous by Longfellow. The little book is a work of art and is well worth securing. It will be sent to anyone in the trade if requested. It is a little book that would find room on the library table and reflects much credit on the artistic taste of Manager Robie.
The Chicago Chronicle, Mar 22, 1896
Praise From Susna B. Anthony.
Miss Susan B. Anthony’s words of praise on the bicycle will be read with pleasure by hosts of wheelwomen everywhere. She says:
- I think the wheel 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 a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. And bloomers are the proper thing for wheeling. It is as I have said-dress to suit the occasion. A woman doesn’t want skirts and flimsy laces 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.
St. Louis Republic, December 12, 1897
The St. Louis Republic, December 12, 1897
Tillie Anderson said:
- I did not take to the wheel for my health, particularly. I suppose it was more for the reason that bicycles were being used by women and I wanted to try the fad. From the start I have been in love with wheeling. I was very weak when I began, but now I never suffer from pains and aches, as most women do.
I think it is a delightful sport and the best possible exercise, though I regularly practice club-swinging, dumb-bell lifting, a little boxing, take lots of outdoor exercise and look after my health as best I can.
Three years ago I was very fat in the legs, almost as much so as Miss Peterson, one of my competitors in the St. Louis race, is today. My muscles were not at all developed, though it was but a short time when the fat began to peel off and give way to sinewy strength. My abdominal and arm muscles also developed rapidly, and I have a peculiarly prominent one in the back, due I think, to bending over the wheel.
It does not fatigue me in the least to take part in these long- distance races, and I am just as fresh after a two-hour’s run as when I commence,” and her appearance bore out her statement. It was just after she had won a great victory at the Coliseum that she received The Republic
Minneapolis Tribune, June 7, 1902
Mrs. Albert Spencer, better known in Minneapolis as Dottie Farnsworth, died yesterday at Salamanca, N. Y., of blood poisoning. Her first name was Leona.
Mr. Spencer was present at the time of death, but the exact circumstances are not known. It is understood, however, that while racing in the cycle dazzle her wheel ran off the top, and death resulted from injuries received in the fall. Mrs. Spencer left the race track several years ago, when she married Mr. Spencer. For a number of years she had been a prominent bicycle rider and had won many prizes all over the country.
Her married life was happy, but she decided to take up racing again, and was in the East to fill engagements. Her death was not wholly unexpected, as telegrams had been received in Minneapolis announcing that she was ill.
Mrs. Farnsworth had started for New York, but was notified at Chicago. Her father, A. W. Farnsworth, is a resident of Minneapolis, where Mrs. Spencer spent most of her life. The body will be brought to Minneapolis.
J. Lawson, terrible swede,