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nun on a bike

Many people ask us about the name Harlot.

Certainly, an old word for prostitute might seem like an odd thing to name a company after.  We actually have a good reason that makes sense to us.  It involves the history of women on bicycles  and a little tongue-in-cheek fun.

In the late 1800's women began to ride bicycles.

These first brave women were often ridiculed, as bicycling was generally considered unsuitable for women at the time.  With the unladylike body position, the need to alter the conservative dress code of the era, and the possibility of falling (bruises were so unsexy back then), cycling was seen as an activity of loose women or harlots. 

As more women started riding, it became apparent that there needed to be some serious changes to their long, heavy dresses in order to make it more safe to ride bikes.  This led to the "rational dress" movement that protested against any clothing for women that "deforms the figure, impedes the movement of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly fitted corsets, of high-heeled or narrow toed boots and shoes; of heavily weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible ".  As you can imagine, this movement infuriated many conservatives.  Women who wore bloomers or other forms of altered dress while riding their bikes were fined and treated like prostitutes.

Critics warned that the "unfettered liberty of bicycling would intoxicate women to immoral acts" and that the bicycle "promoted immodesty in women"As Clare S. Simpson noted,  "The independent mobility of cyclists raised genuine alarm for their physical, if not moral, safety; simply put, the bicycle could easily take women to unsavoury places where they might be endangered physically, or morally.  Drawing on previous knowledge of the kinds of women who deliberately made themselves conspicuous in public, that is, prostitutes, there would be a strong tendency to conclude that cycling women were far from respectable: not exactly prostitutes, perhaps, but possibly women of loose morals or with an undeveloped sense of propriety."

Women just put their chins up and pedaled on.

In 1893, a supporter of women cyclists said "Woman has taken her stand, and her seat in the saddle. I am tolerably certain that the net result will be that woman will take her true position as man's equal."

In 1896 Susan B Anthony said "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.  I think it has done more to emancipate women than any single other thing in the world.  It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.  I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."

harlot president

It's true - I enjoy listing my title as Harlot President.  I like to say I'm heading over to Harlot Headquarters, our warehouse.  And the "harlot" embroidered across my bum gives me a little extra spunk and sassiness when I hit the trail on my bike.  I started this company in 2004 because I loved to ride but didn't feel there was cycling apparel available that was "me".  I wanted clothing that was comfortable, functional, and also had some style.  Sometimes it seems the cycling world could use a bit more gleeful sauciness.  After all, bikes are fundamentally a form of sheer, exhilarating, ageless fun.  Lighten up and ride!
                                                           Jennifer Steketee, Harlot President


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