Gladys, Frances Willard’s bicycle, will be a featured guest during tours of the Willard House, 1730 Orrington Ave., June 11.
Reportedly the first bicycle ride was taken by Baron Karl von Drais, a civil servant to the Grand Duke of Baden, who invented a Laufmaschine (“running machine”). The press, English and French, named the contraption aftrer its inventor, the English calling it “Draisine,” and the French, “draisienne.”
According to Wikipedia, Hans-Erhard Lessing, the biographer of Mr. Drais, “found from circumstantial evidence that Drais’ inte-
rest in finding an alternative to the horse was the starvation and death of horses caused by
crop failure in 1816, following the volcanic eruption of Tambora in 1815.”
Several decades later, Ms.Willard learned to ride a bicycle when she was 53 years old. In “A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle” (1895), she wrote, “… I determined that I would learn the bicycle. . . . If I am asked to explain why I learned the bicycle I should say I did it as an act of grace, if not of actual religion. … Driving is not real exercise; it does not renovate the river of blood that flows so sluggishly in the veins of those who from any cause have lost the natural adjustment of brain to brawn. … The bicycle meets all the conditions and will ere long come within the reach of all. Therefore, in obedience to the laws of health, I learned to ride. I also wanted to help women to a wider world, for I hold that the more interests women and men can have in common, in thought, word, and deed, the happier will it be for the home. Besides, there was a special value to women in the conquest of the bicycle by a woman in her fifty-third year, and one who had so many comrades in the white-ribbon army that her action would be widely influential.”