Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom | Review

Posted February 14, 2015 by Tara Gold in Review /// 2 Comments

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom | ReviewWheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom by Sue Macy
Published by National Geographic Books on 2011-01
Genres: Nonfiction, Young Adult
Pages: 96
Format: hardcover
Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble

Wheels of Change tells the story of the impact of the bicycle on women's lives from 1870s to the early years of the 20th century. It tells the stories of women who rode bicycles for fun, for profit, and to make a statement about women's rights or women's roles in the world. Illustrated liberally with photographs, maps, advertisements, and cartoons, as well as contemporary songs, poems, and newspaper clippings, the book helps readers travel to a time gone by to see firsthand how women used the bicycle as a vehicle to improve their lives. Witty in tone and scrapbooky in presentation with multiple sidebar features, Macy deftly covers the following subjects: Inventing the Bicycle: An amusing look at how women first took to the 'wheel.'

Wheels of Change was one of the nonfiction books we read in my YA literature class, and my students were either big fans of the book or very critical of it. Because it is created by National Geographic, it is visually interesting and filled with photographs, sidebars, and other content to supplement the text on each page. This made for a quick and interesting read, especially for anyone interested in history of every day people and things.

Immediately upon starting the first chapter, I realized what the book reminded me of: the end content in the old American Girl books. Remember those? I had all of the Samantha books (because I had Samantha), and enjoyed reading the pages about life in 1904. I liked looking at the photographs from the era and reading the captions, and appreciated that the information was based on the real-life historical elements that found their way into Samantha’s story. Wheels of Change was like 100+ pages of this type of content. It might not be for every kid, but I do think there is a lot here to bring the life of real people at the turn of the century into context.

What I wanted more of from the book was how the bicycle gave women freedom. The text does focus on this, as the subtitle alludes, but I feel like it got a bit lost in trying to cover the basic facts. Maybe there wasn’t much more to say on the issue without delving into personal commentary and political talk, but I guess I wanted some of that. More of that.


Wheels of Change is a good little book. I’m not quite sure how I would get a teen to pick it up, though I would love to find a way to get this into their hands — I feel like school puts too much emphasis on major world events and not enough on every day life, a topic that this book exposes readers to. My personal rating of the book is a C (average, a good read) because it’s not really a topic of personal interest to me, even though it was an enjoyable book. For students, I would say that this is a quality read for kids and teens ages 11+.

Tara Gold

Tara is a PhD candidate studying education. Her dissertation is on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life...well, that's yet to be determined, but it probably involves getting kids jazzed about books or research. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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2 responses to “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom | Review

  1. I’m trying to introduce more literature about women in the men’s prison. Grateford a prison in Pennsylvania is teaching a Women’s History course. This book sounds like a good idea for the men to try.

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