My new bicycling hero

I have read before about Major Taylor (1878-1932) (the “Worcester Whirlwind”, the “Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World”) but now I have learned of Kittie Knox.(1874-1900)

Major Taylor image from Sports Illustrated

Kittie was a contemporary of Major Taylor and took on both racism and sexism in the bicycling world. She joined (1893) and was then kicked out of (1894) the League of American Wheelmen (now known as the League of American Bicyclists, or the Bike League).

When the League instituted a whites-only constitution in 1894, she confronted them with her existing membership. They kicked her out of the meeting but eventually recognized her membership, making her the first Black member of the League. She remained the only Black member, as they did not repeal the whites-only policy, instead ruling that they could not make the policy retroactive. It took them more than 100 years to change it back. The organization had faded away and been revived a few times in that century and, according to John S. Allen, the 1942 constitution did not limit the organization to white people. It appears that the League failed to repudiate racism formally until 1999, but didn’t embrace it actively after its first demise in 1902.

She wore pants to ride instead of dresses. Dresses were expected of a woman at the time. She made her own cycling clothes. She belonged to the first Black bicycling club and she competed successfully against white men in bike races.

Kittie Knox Image from League of American Bicyclists

The half-fast cycling club salutes Kittie Knox and Major Taylor. Neither were half-fast.