It's a crude way to begin, but here it is: as a way to treat female hysteria (specifically, "congestion of the genitalia"), psychologist Kelsey Stinner invented the vibrator, which he enthusiastically used to treat his patients. Around the same time women donned bloomers and began riding bicycles.
The two developments were among many which would soon liberate women from the home and its mores: birth control, household appliances, nylon, and the telephone. The economic growth of the twentieth century was, essentially, the result of women leaving the home and entering the work force...on bikes.
If this connection of bikes and women's liberation seems overreaching, consider North Korea, where women cannot ride bicycles. A North Korean woman remarked that if Hillary Clinton meets Kim Jong-Il, she should urge him to give women this right: "For women to work at markets, they have to travel everyday. Bicycles are usually the only means of transportation. Without them, they can't make a living. And when you ride bicycles long distances, skirts are very inconvenient."
Here's an article which explains the importance of the bicycle to markets--it allows North Korean buyers to compare prices at different markets and exercise choice; it allows sellers to hawk their wares at locations where they can get a better price. Since women are the chief buyers and sellers of goods in North Korea, a bicycle is essential to their survival. One woman threw herself into the Daedong River when police confiscated her bicycle and five kilograms of corn.
It is doubtful this poor woman ever visited someone like Dr. Stinner or heard news of his invention. It is, in fact, doubtful that most women in the world would have time for hysterics or complain of "congestion of the genitals." They're too busy feeding their children, planting, reaping, and working. Their values are entirely different than ours. Theirs are values of survival: eating, blunting the cold, not being thrown in the gulag, avoiding torture.
I'm not sure we in the wealthy West can understand.
Saturday I rode in from Rockville and then did the team ride, my first lengthy ride in several months. At about mile 60 (for me), with 20 to go, I completely bonked. I'm glad no one was around to see me putzing along at 15 mph, 150 watts. My brain fuzzed up, I felt dizzy, my nerves dulled, a gnawing hunger.
Central and South American food vendors set up stalls every Saturday on the triangle in front of City Bikes. When I finally made it back, I ordered $15 worth of tamales, horchata, pupusas and sweets, and sat on the edge of a planter, eating and drinking. When I had finished I noticed the clear sky and felt my cold fingers, and I thought, for a moment, of those who work and labor all day and do not, at the end of it, fill their mouths with fine food.
The gnawing hunger was still fresh in my head.