Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘history’

03 JANUARY, 2012

A List of Don’ts for Women on Bicycles Circa 1895

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“Don’t ask, ‘What do you think of my bloomers?’”

We’ve already seen how the bicycle emancipated women, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride. The following list of 41 don’ts for female cyclists was published in 1895 in the newspaper New York World by an author of unknown gender. Equal parts amusing and appalling, the list is the best (or worst, depending on you look at it) thing since the Victorian map of woman’s heart.

  • Don’t be a fright.
  • Don’t faint on the road.
  • Don’t wear a man’s cap.
  • Don’t wear tight garters.
  • Don’t forget your toolbag
  • Don’t attempt a “century.”
  • Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  • Don’t criticize people’s “legs.”
  • Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
  • Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
  • Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
  • Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  • Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
  • Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
  • Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
  • Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  • Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
  • Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
  • Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
  • Don’t wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing.
  • Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
  • Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  • Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
  • Don’t without a needle, thread and thimble.
  • Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match.”
  • Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
  • Don’t allow dear little Fido to accompany you
  • Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  • Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.
  • Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
  • Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
  • Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”
  • Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
  • Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because yon ride a wheel.
  • Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
  • Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
  • Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.

For more on the history of women and bikes, see the excellent Wheels of Change, among both the best photography books and the best history books of 2011.

m-bike MetaFilter

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28 DECEMBER, 2011

Fashioning Apollo: How the Spacesuit Was Designed

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What Neil Armstrong has to do with combinatorial creativity, underdog innovators, and sports bras.

On July 12, 1969, only 21 layers of fabric, most gossamer-thin, stood between Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the lethal desolation of a lunar vacuum.”

So begins UC Berkeley architecture professor Nicholas de Monchaux’s Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo — a fascinating voyage into the sartorial history of space flight through the parallel history of one of its key technologies: the spacesuit. Blending material science, iconic photography, and intriguing trivia (did you know that the Apollo mission’s computer-backup system was crafted into a binary pattern that was then physically woven into ropes?), the book itself is cleverly constructed as a series of layers corresponding to the 21 layers of the Apollo spacesuit.

The story of the Apollo spacesuit is the surprising tale of an unexpected victory: that of Playtex, maker of bras and girdles, over the large military-industrial contractors better positioned to secure the spacesuit contract. This book tells the story of this victory, and analyzes both the Playtex suit — a 21-layer, complex assemblage — and its ‘hard’ competitors. It is the clean lines of the latter that have traditionally captured designers’ imaginations: one noted critic described the AX-3 ‘hard’ suit as ‘the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.’”

For more on these competitors, as well as the evolution of the spacesuit over the following decades, see The Smithsonian’s excellent Spacesuits: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection.)

One of the most fascinating aspects of the spacesuits is its testament to combinatorial creativity and the idea that everything comes from what came before. Monchaux writes:

A space suit is made out of a flight suit, a Goodrich tire, a bra, a girdle, a raincoat, a tomato worm. An American rocket ship is made out of a nuclear weapon, and a German ballistic missile; a ‘space program’ — a new organization with new goals — is made out of preexisting military, scholarly, and industrial institutions and techniques.”

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a closer look, and BLDG BLOG has a wonderful interview with de Monchaux.

Meticulously researched and captivatingly written, Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo is a fine addition to the year’s best history books.

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27 DECEMBER, 2011

“Dream Good”: Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolution List, 1942

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How to keep the hope machine running, or what socks have to do with self-actualization and belonging.

As a lover and maker of lists, I often agree with Umberto Eco that “the list is the origin of culture.” But, more than that, it can also be a priceless map of personal aspiration, as is the case of the kinds of lists we make this time of year — resolution lists. This particular one, penned by the great Woody Guthrie in 1942 at the tender-but-just-wise-enough age of 30, is an absolute gem of humor, earnestness, and pure humanity.

1. Work more and better
2. Work by a schedule
3. Wash teeth if any
4. Shave
5. Take bath
6. Eat good — fruit — vegetables — milk
7. Drink very scant if any
8. Write a song a day
9. Wear clean clothes — look good
10. Shine shoes
11. Change socks
12. Change bed cloths often
13. Read lots good books
14. Listen to radio a lot
15. Learn people better
16. Keep rancho clean
17. Dont get lonesome
18. Stay glad
19. Keep hoping machine running
20. Dream good
21. Bank all extra money
22. Save dough
23. Have company but dont waste time
24. Send Mary and kids money
25. Play and sing good
26. Dance better
27. Help win war — beat fascism
28. Love mama
29. Love papa
30. Love Pete
31. Love everybody
32. Make up your mind
33. Wake up and fight

What’s interesting is that the list doesn’t map onto the Maslow hierarchy of needs in order, but does contain shuffled elements of its five tiers, perhaps validation for the universality of Maslow’s insight into human psychology and aspiration — there is the physiological (“Wash teeth,” “Shave,” “Eat good”), the safety and security (“Bank all extra money,” “Keep rachno clean”), the love and belonging (“Dont get lonesome”, “Love mama,” Love papa,”, Love Pete [Seeger]“, “Love everybody”), the esteem (“Wear clean clothes — look good”, “Dance better”), and the self-actualization (“Work more and better”, “Keep hoping machine running,” “Play and sing good,” “Make up your mind,” “Wake up and fight”).

Thank you, Woody, for a timeless list that still speaks to us all — yes, by all means, let’s read lots of good books, keep hoping and dreaming, make up our minds, and love everybody. And, you know, bathe.

via Boing Boing

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