Women and Cycling in Toronto: Fighting for Inclusion since 1869 and SPIN

Brearton’s Women and Cycling traces the early days of the bicycle when females fought cultural norms just to ride a bicycle to the present day where City planning and policy decision have had the effect of limiting women’s participation. The talk highlights the city’s first clandestine women riders, how the bicycle offered Victorian females greater freedom and independence and a visible means of challenging restrictive social standards, and how one woman determined to offer her children a safe place to ride almost single-handedly created the Martin Goodman Trail. This talk took place on August 16, 2011, at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Steve Brearton is a cycling advocate and historian who has long helped to build a bike culture in the city. He is Spacing magazine’s cycling columnist and in 2004, he wrote and curated an exhibition entitled From Scorchers to Alley Cat Scrambles; a History of the Bicycle in Toronto at the City of Toronto’s Market Gallery.

Through a series of songs excerpted from her hit theatrical show SPIN, Evalyn Parry brings to life the adventures and impact of several 19th century cycling heroines: from Annie Londonderry, first woman to ride around the world on a bicycle in 1895, to women’s rights activist Frances Willard, author of “A Wheel within a Wheel: How I learned to Ride a Bicycle” (1895), to Amelia Bloomer, name-sake of the forerunner of pants.

Evalyn Parry is an innovative, award-winning songwriter, playwright, poet and educator living in Parkdale. She has produced four critically acclaimed CDs of music and spoken word, toured all over North America, and her work has been widely commissioned, broadcast and anthologized. SPIN premiered at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in the spring of 2011, and will touring widely in Canada over the coming year.

Trinity Bellwoods Park is in Toronto’s west end, bordered by Dundas and Queen Streets.  The park features many public programs, including a farmer’s market, summer movies, adopt-a-tree, and green space initiatives. For more information and a calendar of events, see Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Use this in the classroom

Suggested bibliography

  • Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way), by Sue Macy (National Geographic Society, 2011)