Which, today, is the face someone makes when he or she is about to hear
people talk about their organic diet without being asked.
Their thinking was that, due to a woman's unique inability to competently work any kind of device with moving parts, or really maintain basic human motor function without fainting onto a strategically positioned couch, the complicated task of keeping balance on a bicycle while, at the same time, trying to work the pedals would wreak havoc on her dainty posture, and the stress of it would permanently disfigure her face. The horrors of bicycle face included lady cyclists developing pale complexions, tight lips, dark shadows around the eyes, and a permanently weary expression, owing to the intense concentration required just to stay alive.
Some more egalitarian medical practitioners tried to reform the bicycle design, such as the position of the handlebars, in an attempt to make them more accessible to women without transforming them into hideous trolls, but others recommended that you simply didn't let your woman near the bicycles if you wanted to remain able to look at her in daylight.
TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images
Aieee! Begone, foul beast!
And, in case your lady simply insisted on maintaining her quaint, aesthetically dangerous hobby, newspapers ran columns of advice for women to enjoy their velocipedes to minimal negative effect -- advice such as "don't scream if you see a cow" and "try not to ask every man you see what he thinks of your bloomers." Man, you have to admit, misogyny in the 1800s could be kind of adorable ... like a really stupid kitten.
But, even this paled in comparison to the fact that ...
It Was Claimed That Traveling by Train Could Disintegrate People
In the 1820s, humanity's pipe dream of traveling vast distances in a cramped, heavily polluting sardine tin on wheels was realized with the invention of the steam locomotive. It is impossible to overstate how huge this was -- the ability to travel and/or move goods at a speed faster than a pack animal trotting changed everything. Plus, you suddenly could visit faraway places, without worrying about getting bogged down in the prairie and having to eat your fellow passengers.
Not everyone was thrilled, however. Specifically, people were worried about the effects that traveling at blistering, unfathomable speeds of up to 20 mph would have on the frail human body. Anti-train propagandists warned that climbing aboard one of these death traps could, at worst, cause the human body to disintegrate under the stress of traveling at speeds that, these days, would make you want to pull a gun on the car in front of you. It was feared that men would asphyxiate, and women would suffer a more violent death due to their more fragile assembly.
View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images
That's not steam; that's the fine mist of human bodies.
In fact, there were even concerns that merely witnessing a vehicle traveling at a school-zone pace would damage the environment and reduce people to madness. The fear was that a train moving at more than 20 mph across the landscape would blight crops, cause milk to curdle in cows' udders, and even induce a form of insanity they called "delirium furiosum." It was actually recommended that six-foot barriers be erected alongside tracks to protect people from seeing the trains, lest it have a similar effect on them to gazing into the eyes of one of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones.
DAJ/amana images/Getty Images
"May the gods pity the man who, in his callousness, can remain sane after gazing upon this terrible visage!"
Oh, how quickly times change -- by 1896, people were so comfortable with the idea that they were staging massive train crashes for their own amusement. OK, so maybe they went a bit too far in the opposite direction there.
For more ridiculous things people lost their shit over, check out The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History and The 5 Most Embarrassing Things Angry Mobs Have Rioted Over.
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