Cycling Feminist Socialists

Yet again, I have to admit to not being interested in sport, but this article from Sunday’s Observer concerns, or rather, is triggered by Adam Yates who is close to being crowned best young rider in the Tour de France. He is a member of the Bury Clarion Club, which is a part of a long, proud  tradition in this northern town:

The national Clarion movement began in Manchester in 1891 when the journalist Robert Blatchford walked our of his well-paid job on the Sunday Chronicle to start the Clarion newspaper. Appalled by the state of the city’s slums, Blatchford aimed to inspire others to create a better society through cooperation. His enterprising readers set up a strong of societies, among them the Clarion Cycling Club, Vocal Unions, the Clarion Fellowship, Clarion Handicraft Clubs, Clarion Scouts, Rambling Clubs and Cinderella Clubs (which organised events for children).

Originally called the Socialist Cycling Club, the National Clarion Club issued a handbook in 1926 which listed 8 objectives, including “To prevent domination of class over mass” and “Not to feed the shirker at the cost of the worker but to order that ‘he who will not work shall not eat’, whether he be a tramp or a duke.”

But the Bury club was not just radical in terms of class, it led the way in terms of gender, as soon after it was founded at the turn of the last century:

One January day in 1901 seven fearless women saddled up, adjusted their flowing skirts and straw boaters [in January?] and pedalled slowly through Bury’s streets. They were greeted by local people shouting “shame” and “hussies” as well as booing children, who ran alongside, according to reports in the Bury Times. History records that the women were followed – at a respectable distance – by 20 gentlemen on bicycles.

Together they aimed not only to found the Bury section of the National Clarion Cycling Club but also spread the gospel of socialism.

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