Fashion and Dress History student wins Young Scholars' Prize

Fashion and Dress History student wins Young Scholars' Prize

Research looks at pioneer of women's speed cycling.

30 May 2012

Tessie Reynolds

A final year BA(Hons) Fashion and Dress History student has won the Young Scholars Prize at the XX111rd International Cycling History Conference held at Roeselare, Belgium.

Morgan Barlow won the 300 Euro award for her research titled ‘Tessie Reynolds - A Rational Activist.’ Her presentation assessed the achievements of this 16 year-old Brighton, speed cyclist’s record-breaking bicycle ride from Brighton to London and back in 1893.

Triggered by one photograph of Tessie on her bicycle, themes of Barlow’s study included assessment of her brief fame as revealed through hitherto unknown fan letters, including a proposal of marriage, and Tessie’s role in opening up speed cycling at a sport for women.

Based on the Reynold’s family archives, this new research revealed that Tessie was also actively involved nationally and internationally in the movement to promote Rational bifurcated cycling dress for women. She did this at a very young age and in the face of public hostility towards any women who cycled professionally, let alone ones who wore knee breeches in public.

Barlow's presentation described Tessie’s working-class Brighton origins, as one of 11 children living in Kemptown, helping her mother run the family boarding house and followed her life beyond the death of her only daughter and husband, to her career as a rare female Traffic Safety Officer in North London during the 1930s and 40s.

Morgan said: “I have found it difficult to remain impartial throughout this research project as a result of developing an affection for Tessie’s immortalised image. It is a fact that Tessie, even at the age of 16, was one of the women responsible for opening up feminine, public involvement in active physical sports in the late Nineteenth century, in this case, long distance speed cycling. In this summer of the London Olympics, where men and women compete together freely, we would do well to remember her.”