In February, our Women & Bicycles program led the Strong Women Ride. This city is full of women who shaped history–and who were law-breaking, sanctuary-providing, kidnapping scalawags at the same time. We figured folks would jump at the chance to shake off the winter cobwebs and learn something new at the same time.
Turns out we were right. So right, in fact, that we had to scramble to schedule a second ride in March! Both rides were big successes, with great weather, great company, and great education all at once.
So who were these strong women?
Our three main historical women were the Rev. Paulie A. Murray, Dr. Carla Hayden, and Marion Pritchard. But along the way, we also stopped at the Lady Fortitude statue at Howard U, Anna J. Cooper circle (near her preserved home), the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality Monument and House, the Eleanor Roosevelt statue at the FDR memorial, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.
Rev. Paulie A. Murray
In the 1940s, Paulie refused to sit in the broken seats of the colored section of a bus. Her subsequent arrest inspired her law career. She would later become one of the first women Episcopal priests, serving in Washington, DC and focusing on reconciliation.
Dr. Carla Hayden
Carla Hayden is the current Librarian of Congress, and both the first woman and the first person of color to hold that post. During the Baltimore riots in the days after the death of Freddie Gray, as other businesses closed their doors, she insisted on keeping the libraries open so people had a place to go.
Marion Pritchard was a Dutch resister during World War II. Special thanks to Marion’s granddaughters Abigail Pritchard and Grace Pritchard Burson, who shared stories of Marion’s resistance work with our riders. Our favorite story was one from near the end of the war. Marion was riding on rims, her bike tires long gone. With everyone starving, she traveled across a river to finagle some extra food beyond the meagre rations. On her way back, she was captured by a Nazi patrol. When questioned, she reportedly let them have it–she told them exactly what she thought of them, their regime, and their leader. The next morning, the soldiers drove her across the bridge where they had captured her. They returned her bike, and the extra food, and sent her on her way.
After that night of darkness, she saw some glimmers of hope and humanity.
After hearing these stories, the ride offered an option to show our own strength, with a ride to Meridian Hill Park that included the 15th street climb. Every rider who attempted the hill achieved the top… and a trip to cupcakes as a reward!