GB's women cycling stars - how it all began
Published 7 August 2012
As Team GB's cyclists were winning Olympic medals in the velodrome, a University of Brighton graduate has traced the source of how women first gained a foothold in the sport.
Morgan Barlow researched Tessie Reynolds, from Brighton, who was just 16 in 1893 when she rode from the town to London and back in a record 8.5 hours. She wore what was described at the time as a "shocking rationale" dress – a long jacket over knickers, which outraged some observers.
Morgan said: "In this, the summer of the London Olympics, where men and women compete together freely, we would do well to remember her."
Her research won Morgan a Young Scholars prize of €300 at the International Cycling History Conference in Belgium.
Morgan, who graduated last month (July) in Fashion and Dress History BA(Hons) at the Faculty of Art's School of Humanities, worked on "Tessie Reynolds – A Rational Activist" after seeing a faded photograph of the cyclist.
Brighton's pioneering woman cyclist Tessie Reynolds
The research assessed Tessie's brief fame and examined Tessie's role in opening up speed cycling as a sport for women, and in promoting cycle wear for women.
Morgan said: "Tessie did this at a very young age and in the face of public hostility towards women cycling professionally, let alone women who wore knee breeches for cycling in public."
Tessie, one of 11 children, came from a working class family in Kemp Town, Brighton. She helped her mother run the family's boarding house and Morgan's research followed her beyond the death of her only daughter and husband to her career as a traffic safety officer in London, a rare post for a woman at that time.
Morgan said: "At just 16, Tessie was one of the women responsible for opening up public sports for females in the late 19th century, in this case long distance speed cycling."
Cycling (on the big screens) at London 2012 looks very different
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