Below is a link to an interesting article about how the Bicycle Craze of the 1890s became interwoven with the women’s suffrage movement. While high-wheeled “penny farthing” bicycles were ridden mainly by men, the adoption of the safety bicycle in the late 1880s popularized bicycling by women. Suddenly, the bicycle enabled women to leave the home, and get exercise in the outdoors. This newfound independence emboldened the nascent women’s movements. While it is possible to ride a bicycle in long skirts and corset, it was probably not very practical. The dress reform movement, also known as the rational dress movement, strove to replace restrictive Victorian dress with more practical and comfortable styles.
Needless to say, the powers that be (men) weren’t entirely enamored with women thinking for themselves and fought against the very idea of women on bicycles. Hence, the dreaded condition of “Bicycle Face”. Read the story at the link for all the details.
Just imagine the social upheaval that might have occurred if women in a steampunk world had access to personal airships!