There must be something socially a little dangerous about a women on a bicycle. Why else would repressive Islamic regimes forbid women from riding? Why would North Korea make it an offense for women to ride in pants?
One forgotten WWI cyclist, Dorothy Lawrence, rode her bike to the front lines, masqueraded as a man, helped plant trench mines, gave herself up and was arrested, was pressed to not sell her sensational story to the news, wrote a book, got censored, got raped (according to her), and was sentenced to an insane asylum, where she died four decades later.
If nothing else, Lawrence demonstrates the power inherent in woman + bike.
A frustrated freelance journalist, Lawrence wanted to be a war correspondent, but no paper would give her a job, though she had a few clips under her pen. So she made her way to Paris, travelling with a bicycle she bought for two English pounds.
From Paris she tried to get to an area of combat by bicycle, but realized she was unprepared to infiltrate a company. Back to Paris she cycled, finding two sympathetic soliders willing to help her get a uniform, which they smuggled to her over time under the pretense she was their laundress.
Hair cropped, breasts under bandages, Lawrence again rode her bike to a nearby part of the front, and eventually befriended a sapper (soldier engineer) who helped her hide and eventually took her along on night missions planting mine bombs.
After some days, Lawrence’s health and courage failed her, and she gave herself in to her regiment’s Sargeant. He had her arrested. Suspected as a spy, Lawrence continued to tell her straightforward tale until she was released, but not before military authorities made her sign a pledge that she would not sell her story. The threat of a woman cycling straight into a war zone seemed to make the British military exceedingly unnerved.
Lawrence’s book Sapper Dorothy Lawrence was suppressed until the war’s end. She was dubbed ‘The Only English Woman Soldier” but hardly enjoyed much fame before, claiming she had been raped by her church warden, she was confined to a mental institution in 1925. She died there in 1964