Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club  



The Clarion in 1894

Clarion Badges
The origins of the Clarion silver trumpet badge featured in last issue. On 23 June 1894 for the first time a little advert began to appear in the Clarion. 'The Clarion Cyclists Badge' was obtainable from Chris J Thompson in Hockley, Birmingham at '1s 8d each or 18s dozen'. [Reproductions from me at £6 – sorry, haven't got a dozen left!]

'Lady Cyclists' and 'Rationals'
At this time the Clarion included a page called PASTIMES Our "Clarion" Cricket Mixture, put together by one Muff – yet another of those odd nicknames

On 2 June 1894 the following little piece appeared. [Difficult to ascertain any connection with cricket.]

There is wrath, says the London Evening News and Post, in the ranks of the "rationally dressed" lady riders, by which is meant those fair cyclists who have emancipated themselves from the skirt. The reason for the pother is the refusal of an innkeeper's wife to serve a rationally-dressed lady with refreshments unless she could produce a skirt.

This certainly seems very high-handed behaviour on the part of the Licensed victualler, and there are some grounds for the opinion that It is also illegal.

I'm 99.9% sure that this is a reference to the well-publicised case of Lady Harberton. This is what has to say about her and the case.

Lady Harberton suggested a dual garment which initially was a divided skirt worn under a long coat. The idea appealed to many as sensible and practical. Those favouring the style drew attention to its value. Accident reports of cyclists who had been encumbered by the fashion for wearing standard skirt styles often appeared in the press. Rational dress as a fashion was finally adopted in 1895 by a handful of privileged women. It was not universally worn and virtually no cycling costume is found in museums. A rare example of fashionable cycling dress from the Victorian era is held at the Platt Hall Gallery of English Costume in Manchester"

Only limited numbers ever wore the full rational dress Lady Harberton wore. Female cyclists still risked ridicule and many preferred to wear breeches beneath a skirt and plenty more simply wore just the skirt. Lady Harberton herself was refused admittance for refreshments at the coffee room at the Hautboy Hotel. A lawsuit and heated debate followed which gave a more public airing to the idea of women wearing appropriate clothes for safe movement in activities. 

Cycling was very 'in' in the 1890s – probably more than ever before or after. It has been routinely credited with playing a biggish part in the growing emancipation of women and for a while – quite soon after the Clarion report there was actually a periodical called The Lady Cyclist.

Here's what the British Library website has to say about it – you can read it for yourself at Colindale.

The Lady Cyclist, 1895-97
By the 1890s cycling was a popular pastime. The Lady Cyclist, founded in 1895, aimed to provide useful advice for the growing number of women who shared this enthusiasm. Each issue contained suggestions for recommended rides, advice on bicycle maintenance, and advertisements for everything from the latest machines to Ellman's universal embrocation. The magazine was short-lived, but as the editor, Charles Sisley, wrote in the issue for July 1896, 'A new era seems to have sprung up: life which has hitherto seemed dull and uninteresting now looks bright and attractive'.

But just how much of a stir 'rationals' caused can be judged by this reference in the very first article by Swiftsure – who was to preside over the Clarion's 'Cycling Notes' from then on

'A woman dressed in "rationals" has been seen astride a machine in the Preston district.' [Clarion, 28 July 1894]


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