Learning to Ride the Bicycle
Frances E. Willard was a suffragist who firmly believed in the equality of the sexes. She wrote in her book titled, A Wheel Within a Wheel of her childhood in the country, where she was allowed to play as a child ought and was not restricted to gender roles. This changed when Frances turned sixteen years old. Ms. Willard writes that with the long hampering skirts and the restrictive corsets thrust upon her frame, she was no longer afforded the pleasure of simply being the active woman she was and had always been. Despite having been an outgoing child, Frances was restricted to gender roles and as such no longer allowed to be the physical and outgoing young woman she had been.
After the passing of her mother and at the age of fifty-three, Frances E. Willard decided to learn how to ride the bicycle. She recounts that once she had mounted the bicycle, it was as though it spoke to her, saying, "I did not ask you to mount or drive, but since you have done so you must now learn the laws of balance and exploitation" (p. 16). The bicycle reminded Frances of the realities of life, balance and exploitation are to be expected, but it is up to you how you receive and handle the experiences of both. With learning to ride the bicyle, Frances E. Willard was getting a new leash on life. Frances was able to be the physically strong and independent woman she had wanted to be as a young girl. Learning to ride the bicycle taught Frances that with confidence and determination, one can surpass and break down cultural restraints.