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Strange but True: Bicycles helped emancipate women

Bill and Rich Sones: With the advent of the “Rover” safety bicycle, women could ride modestly in floor-length skirts and were given new-found mobility and self-reliance.
By BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D., For The Oklahoman Published: June 10, 2014


Q: For what group in our society was the coming of the “Rover” safety bicycle of 1885 probably the greatest boon? The Starley & Sutton Co. model had both wheels the same size, thus offering the safest and most efficient combination for a bicycle.

A: Its invention casts a new light on the old quip that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” says Eric Chaline in “Fifty Machines That Changed the Course of History.” Ironically, the safety bicycle (so-called because the rider’s feet could reach the ground) helped create the emancipated “new woman” of the late 19th century. Victorian women constrained by a modest dress code found it impossible to ride a penny-farthing with its oversized front wheel, yet even in a floor-length skirt, they had no problem with the safety bicycle. “Thus, the long fight for women’s political and social emancipation began when they took to the streets on bicycles, giving them unprecedented mobility, self-reliance and independence.”

Standing out among her contemporaries was Annie Kopchovsky (1870-1947), who, as Annie Londonderry, in 1895 became the first woman to cycle around the world, completing the trip in 15 months.

Q: When you consider “the law of large numbers,” “the improbability principle” or “the law of combinations,” it’s not surprising that some truly quirky things happen with numbers, such as one Israel state lottery picking 13, 14, 26, 32, 33, 36 on Sept. 21, 2010, and then again a few weeks later on Oct. 16; or the same person winning the same big lottery more than once. Or, what if you'd been Maureen Wilcox in 1980 when “she bought tickets containing the winning numbers for both the Massachusetts State Lottery and the Rhode Island Lottery”?

A: Unfortunately for Ms. Wilcox, her ticket for the Massachusetts Lottery held the winning number for the Rhode Island Lottery, and vice versa, says David J. Hand in “Never Say Never” in Scientific American magazine. Obviously, “matching a ticket for one lottery with the outcome of the draw for another wins you nothing — apart from a suspicion that the universe is making fun of you.”

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