Women on The Move: The Politics of Patents

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I think you’re going to like this. Fun, irreverence, freedom and a good dose of messing around. This new film looks at some of the clothing that adventurous women invented in an effort to be able to get outdoors under the disapproving gaze of society.

I come from a long line of women who rolled up their sleeves and did things their own way. Aunty Nellie worked and travelled as a Lady’s Maid to Sylvia Brocklebank – who drove coaches and horses in the UK and USA in the early 1900s, when that not the done thing. Aunty Libas, born at the turn of the century, rode her bike well into her 80s, insisting she wouldn’t stop until the hill to church became too much for her. My mum brought me up in a world devoid of make up, frills and high heels, and her sister still pedals solo around Europe on annual bike trips (she won’t thank me if I mention her age). In summary, I’m lucky: I have had many role models to show the way.

Aunty Hannah doesn’t look like she’d put up with any nonsense.

As is discussed in this film, not everyone is so lucky. Expectations about what we should do, how we should behave and what we should do with our lives can get in the way of doing the things we want to do, or even think is possible. Even today, societal expectations can constrain our horizons. This film celebrates the ingenuity of the trail blazers of the past, and draws attention to some of the views people had about what women should do or were even physically capable of. Many of those views seem laughable now – although it is not really so long (1967!) since women weren’t allowed to run marathons for fear their uterus would fall out. What views of today about what people can and can’t do might we look back on in the future and wonder ‘what were we thinking?’.

Women on the Move has been funded by the European Research Council as part of the Politics of Patents project led by Dr Kat Jungnickel (Goldsmiths, University of London) and brought to life by The Adventure Syndicate. This energetic film from The Adventure Syndicate showcases the creativity of women from the 1890s-1940s who invented clothing which enabled them to be sporty and active at a time when social norms, and especially their clothing in this case, inhibited them. Along with Aneela McKenna of Mor Diversity we have reimagined the fun these women will have had pushing boundaries, and the palpable energy that comes when women get together in the outdoors.

Kat wrote: Women and girls have always been sporty and active, but they’ve had to work around significant barriers to their freedom of movement. In addition to being hampered by negative social attitudes, even when women carved out ways to participate in sports, they rarely had the appropriate things to wear because they’ve seldom been the focus of sportswear manufacturers. We looked for stories hidden from history, hidden in the archive, and hidden in the garment itself and we were amazed by the results.

You can read more about this research project in Kat’s latest open access article.

We’re delighted to launch this film on International Women’s Day 2023 and make it open access for all to enjoy and spark conversation and debate about the barriers women have faced and still face to being active.

While you’re here…

Author Profile Picture
Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • Women on The Move: The Politics of Patents
  • willard
    Full Member

    Thank you very much for that Hannah.

    One of my girlfriend’s biggest hates is exercise clothing that is unsuitable for women that, well, want to actually use it for exercising. Another is that designers of womens’ clothing appear to have forgotten that pockets are a thing.

    She might also get triggered by the historical part of the film; people telling her (and other women) she can’t/shouldn’t do stuff because she’s a woman is a sure way to piss her off.

    Full Member

    Great stuff, thanks Hannah. Best writing at ST at the moment

    APF 🙂

    Full Member

    Great stuff, thanks Hannah. Best writing at ST at the moment

    Agree with this 100%.

    Hannah’s writing is the only thing that keeps me subscribing to Singletrack.

    Full Member

    I enjoyed that film, amazing what people used to think back then….

    Free Member

    “people telling her (and other women) she can’t/shouldn’t do stuff because she’s a woman is a sure way to piss her off.”

    Do people acxtually tell her that?

    Full Member

    Thanks for the article, and the brilliant film.

    Full Member

    your Auntie Hannah looks like my wife’s late grandma.

    she has a pair of socks with “no nonsense” woven into the toes that she wears in Grandma’s memory

    Full Member

    “people telling her (and other women) she can’t/shouldn’t do stuff because she’s a woman is a sure way to piss her off.”

    Do people acxtually tell her that?

    Sort of related, I’ve been to a few talks at Rapha by Emily Chappell (Trans Continental race winner, all round adventure cyclist) and several other riders too – Katie Kookaburra (her Instagram name) is another good example.

    One thing they always get asked in the Q&A at the end after they’ve spoken about their solo adventures, tours across Europe etc is “isn’t that very dangerous?” and/or “weren’t you afraid?”

    No-one ever asks lone male riders those questions…

    Very good article Hannah!

    Full Member

    Brilliant brilliant. This has become one of my favourite films ever and wonderful writing alongside Hannah.

    However, I also have a project funded by the European Research Council and I am just massively sad that I have no justification (in my boring science!) to make a film this cool.

    Full Member

    Great article.

    Did I spy reflective tweed? It would be great to see a range of usable “normal “ clothing across the board.

    Full Member

    A female friend and I went night riding over Middle Moor, Hayfield many times. I ended up keeping quiet about this fact because people seemed to be mortified by the danger of it all. My mother couldn’t understand that it was more dangerous to walk across a city centre at that particular time of night. I suffer from anxiety, so going into a city is a horrible experience, whereas riding along a bridleway on a moor, so quiet, so peaceful with no-one else around is a wonderful experience. I wish more women would do it.

    Full Member

    Loved that, as did my other half. She’s more interested in the clothing design than I am, but both of us went ‘that’s cool’ at both the designs and especially the reflective tweed!

    Full Member


    I got around to asking her about this at the weekend and she confirmed that, yes, people have and continue to tell her that she can’t do stuff because she is female. Mostly older males, sometimes younger ones. She get’s rather angry about that.

    Full Member

    She get’s rather angry about that

    I started to type ‘I can imagine…’ but I can’t, and that’s the point I suppose.
    It’s a great film, and with really strong (very positive) feedback from women I’ve shared it with. And lots of laughter to boot.

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