Kittie Knox
Kittie Knox and bicycle
BornOctober 7, 1874
Cambridge, Massachusetts
DiedOctober 11, 1900(1900-10-11) (aged 26)
Occupationseamstress
Known forcyclist

Katherine Towle Knox (October 7, 1874 – October 11, 1900) was a bicycle racer and the first African American to be accepted into the League of American Wheelmen (LAW).[1]

Knox joined LAW in 1893 at a time when few women were members.[1][2] The organization changed their constitution to only allow white members in 1894. In 1895 the organization clarified that constitutional changes are not retroactive and Knox's membership in the group was no longer questioned.[3] Knox persisted in racing despite sometimes being denied access to races as well as service by restaurants and hotels while traveling.[1] She was a strong rider, participating in and completing several century rides.[4] Knox was known both for her cycling ability, taking first place in a LAW meeting Waltham, Massachusetts, as well as her fashionable cycling outfits.[5] During this time, women were expected to wear long skirts when engaging in physical activity. However, Kittie Knox defied gender norms by wearing baggy trousers when cycling. [6] Unlike her male counterparts, much attention was given to her appearance and wardrobe.[1] The media often paid more attention to her looks than to her abilities as a cyclist. [1]

Personal life

Knox was born to Katherine Towle, a white woman from East Parsonfield, Maine who was a millworker, and John Knox, a black man from Philadelphia who worked as a tailor.[4] Kittie had one older brother, Ernest Knox.[1] Kittie was born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, and moved to Boston with her family in the 1880s after her father passed away.[7] At the time, the West End of Boston was an impoverished area and had limited opportunities for people of color. Knox got a job as a seamstress which allowed her to express her creative abilities.[1] She died in 1900 from kidney disease and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in a public lot.[8] A headstone was erected for her by family members on September 29, 2013.[9]

Legacy

In 2019, the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts named the Kittie Knox Bike Path after her. The path connects Broadway and Binney Street in Cambridge.[10][11]

In 2022, MassBike and partners began hosting an annual bike ride in honor of Kittie Knox. [12]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Miller, Grace (2020-05-26). "Breaking the Cycle: the Kittie Knox story – Smithsonian Libraries / Unbound". Smithsonian Libraries / Unbound. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  2. ^ "Kittie Knox, Boston's Cycling Craze, 1880–1900: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society book cover". CONTENTdm. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  3. ^ "Queries and Answers". Good Roads. 22: 34. July 1895. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b "African American Heritage Trail – Kittie Knox". Mount Auburn Cemetery. 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  5. ^ "The Asbury Park Meet". The Bearings. 11 (24): 2. July 11, 1825.
  6. ^ "Women in Transportation History – Kittie Knox, African-American Cyclist". Transportation History. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2024-04-16.
  7. ^ Boyd, Herb (2022-11-24). "Kittie Knox of cycling fame and fashion". New York Amsterdam News. Retrieved 2024-04-16.
  8. ^ "Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626–2001". FamilySearch. Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston. p. 2. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  9. ^ "African American Heritage Trail: A Monument for Kittie Knox". Mount Auburn Cemetery. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  10. ^ Fallacara, Noelle. "More bike lanes, reduced speed limits on horizon in Cambridge". Cambridge Chronicle & Tab. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  11. ^ "Ames Street Separated Bike Lane Project (Main St to Memorial Dr) – CDD – City of Cambridge, Massachusetts". www.cambridgema.gov. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  12. ^ https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/06/05/metro/cyclists-honor-black-female-biking-pioneer-late-1800s/