restricted access Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) (review)
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Reviewed by
Macy, Sue. Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way). National Geographic, 2011. 96p. illus. with photographs Library ed. ISBN 978-1-4263-0762-1 $27.90 Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4263-0761-4 $18.95 R Gr. 4-8.

Burdened with helmets, pads, and parental strictures and anxiety, many young bike riders may find it hard to regard their humble wheels as vehicles of liberation. Here Macy offers a brief history of the bicycle itself, focusing on the improvements that morphed it from a boneshaking glorified scooter to a sleek, smooth ride. Then she turns to her real interest—how women in particular embraced this novel mode of transportation, which encouraged freedom of physical movement, necessitated clothing reform, expanded their geographical sphere, and whisked them out from under the watchful eye of parents and even husbands. Focusing specifically on American history, Macy displays a keen feel for the elements that will most amuse or outrage her readers—concerns that women's reproductive health would be jeopardized by cycling; that their morals would be compromised by sudden social freedoms; that their sense of decency would erode with the donning of pants, bloomers, or short skirts; and that all this would inevitably lead to—oh, woe!—demanding the vote. The gallery of photographs (including some images of African Americans, often absent from children's books on women's rights), ephemera, and sidebar newspaper excepts is as fascinating as the text, and the addition of a timeline, index, resource page, and quotation sources will make this topic accessible to report writers focusing on women's history. Relatively short, themed chapters will even make this a strong selection for a nonfiction readaloud. [End Page 336]