Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2019

Keywords

Women bicyclists, Bicycle racing

Abstract

In March 1889, an Omaha resident and novice female bicycle racer named Lillie Williams hurtled into the sporting spotlight. Over a period of six nights, before an overflow crowd averaging five thousand enthusiastic fans a night, Williams outrode the nation’s top “cycliennes” in a hotly contested race in the city’s newly constructed Coliseum. By the end, she had pedaled 259.4 miles and broken the women’s 18-hour cycling record. Although Williams would eventually take up and excel at a number of other sports—including motorcycling, swimming, and fencing, in which she set records and won championships—unrivaled in her memory was the race in Omaha that launched her professional career. As a woman athlete in the public eye, Williams encountered challenges and risks, sexism and spectacle. She also experienced and enjoyed new freedoms and a love of competition and showmanship. An exploration of her career illuminates the conditions that converged to make women’s competitive cycling a popular, if brief, sensation in the late nineteenth century.

Publication Title

Nebraska History

Volume

100

Issue

4

First Page

194

Last Page

209

Comments

Copyright ©2019 History Nebraska. This article is used by permission of History Nebraska history.nebraska.gov

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