Puck’s Greeting to the New Year, 1898

Puck, January 5, 1898, Click to enlarge

The satirical magazine Puck was not always nice to the new woman of the late nineteenth century.  In this drawing, however, she is presented as a breath of fresh air, bringing flowers and a taste of Spring. It is the old woman, all in black and heading for the denuded forest, who is a symbol of gloom.

Usually the old and new are played by men in New Year’s drawings.  Here two women—on bicycles no less—get the starring roles.  Perhaps the cartoonist, S. D. Ehrhart, was making a joke about just how ubiquitous women on bicycles were.  The old woman makes her exit in an old fashioned bonnet and long skirts. The young woman rides in wearing a stylish hat and a very short skirt with leggings underneath.  Viewers get a provocative look up her legs.

This drawing was a caricature, with only a faint relationship to current styles.  In fact, most “wheelwomen” tried their hardest to make sure that their skirts didn’t ride up in front.  And, despite much searching, I have yet to see a photo of an old women on a bicycle.  Maybe you have one to share?

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4 Responses to Puck’s Greeting to the New Year, 1898

  1. Carol in Denver says:

    Oh, I hope you find lots of images of old women on bicycles! Quite innovative, using women to see out the old year and welcome the new. Looking back from over a century later, has this ever been repeated?

  2. Lizzie says:

    I’ll go back through all my bicycling photos to make sure I don’t have one of an older woman on a bicycle. But you are right; not commonly seen.

  3. Anne S. says:

    Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz was an older woman on a bicycle. Of course, that was a movie, but there were probably real life examples. I don’t know what made me think of it, but I did a search and good images came up right away.

    • Lynn says:

      Anne–I should have made clear that I was looking for photos of older women on bikes in the 1890s and early 1900s. But I like your idea of looking at the Wizard of Oz. I’ll file it away for future inspiration!

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