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Muscle on Wheels

by M. Ann Hall

Muscle on Wheels Synopsis

The majestic high-wheel bicycle, with its spider wheels and rubber tires, emerged in the mid-1870s as the standard bicycle. A common misconception is that, bound by Victorian dress and decorum, women were unable to ride it, only taking up cycling in the 1880s with the advent of the chain-driven safety bicycle. On the contrary, women had been riding and even racing some form of the bicycle since the first velocipedes appeared in Europe early in the nineteenth century. Challenging the understanding that bicycling was a purely masculine sport, Muscle on Wheels tells the story of women's high-wheel racing in North America in the 1880s and early 1890s, with a focus on a particular cyclist: Louise Armaindo (1857-1900). Among Canada's first women professional athletes and the first woman who was truly successful as a high-wheel racer, Armaindo began her career as a strongwoman and trapeze artist in Chicago in the 1870s before discovering high-wheel bicycle racing. Initially she competed against men, but as more women took up the sport, she raced them too. Although Armaindo is the star of Muscle on Wheels, the book is also about other women cyclists and the many men - racers, managers, trainers, agents, bookmakers, sport administrators, and editors of influential cycling magazines - who controlled the sport, especially in the United States. The story of working-class Victorian women who earned a living through their athletic talent, Muscle on Wheels showcases an exciting moment in women's and athletic history that is often forgotten or misconstrued.

Muscle on Wheels Press Reviews

More than a biography of a fascinating bicycle racing pioneer, Muscle on Wheels treats a wide variety of characters, men and women, mostly unknown today. Hall does an excellent job correcting the oversights of authors focusing on cycle history. idrottsf This engaging book tells the amazing story of a French-Canadian woman and 20 other women who were professional cyclists in the late 19th century. It also recounts the history of wome's high-wheel (tri)cycling in the 1880s and women's so-called safety ( In reading M. Ann Hall's fascinating biography of Quebec-born professional cyclist Louise Armaindo, one can't help wondering what other remarkable stories of athleticism have been downplayed, ridiculed, or outright ignored over the past century...Her stories of how these women persevered despite the financial, physical, and sexual exploitation they experienced is disturbing in its parallels to recent #MeToo stories from contemporary professional athletes. Yet Hall's book still feels like a celebration. Quill & Quire In Muscle on Wheels, [Hall] tells a story set mainly south of the border, where talented women could earn real money thanks to wide-scale betting on the spectacle of sport, and watch it vanish into the pockets of agents, managers, and event organizers. Though Armaindo appears to have held her own amongst these fast men, decking and dumping those she realized were ripping her off. One newspaper account had Armaindo and her agent and coach, Tom Eck, wrestling it out when she felt he was not treating her fairly. Given the sensationalistic nature of sports news, it is hard to really know - but let's hope her incredible strength came in handy in every avenue of her life. Muscle on Wheels transports the reader to the racetrack, to the exciting days when Armaindo rode every other North American woman (and many men) into the ground. Literary Review of Canada Fixing a feminist gaze on the turn-of-the-century cycling phenomenon, M. Ann Hall's Muscle on Wheels is an impressive account of a gifted and highly successful professional athlete and performer whose sensational career spanned North America. Nancy B. Bouchier, McMaster University

Book Information

ISBN: 9780773554658
Publication date: 21st August 2018
Author: M. Ann Hall
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 248 pages
Categories: Cycling,

About M. Ann Hall

M. Ann Hall is professor emerita in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation at the University of Alberta.

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