125th anniversary of Suffrage in New Zealand

First women's cycling club in Australasia formed

18 August 1892

Some members of the Atalanta Club, c. 1892
Some members of the Atalanta Club, c. 1892 (Christchurch City Libraries, CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0054)

Cycling enthusiasts gathered in Christchurch to discuss the formation of a cycling club for women. The male president of the Bicycle Touring Club presided over the meeting, but it was Alice Burn who moved that a women’s club should be formed under the name ‘The Atalanta Cycling Club’. It was hoped the club would make cycling popular with women and reduce prejudice towards female cyclists.

The development of the modern bicycle in the 1880s promised women more freedom to travel without the need for a male chaperone. Cycling opened up new social worlds but was not without its dangers. Women cyclists were sometimes jeered at, abused and even pushed off their bicycles. Members of the club sometimes cycled with brothers or husbands for protection against such attacks.

From the first meeting, the topic of uniform was debated. Women’s clothing of the 1890s was cumbersome, with long skirts and corsets. For cycling, women had a choice of divided cycling skirts or ‘dress reform’ attire such as bloomers and knickerbockers. Dress reform was often associated (in an unflattering manner) with the feminist movement. In September 1892 the Atalanta Club decided that members could choose their own clothing, so long as the club colours were prominent. A year later, however, it was resolved that the uniform should be a plain skirt with a cream blouse, with colours navy and blue.

The Atalanta Cycling Club existed for at least five years and organised many cycle touring events for its members. After the club dissolved, women’s cycling continued. 


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