Tillie Anderson ~ The Terrible Swede
America's Women's Champion
Although Women's Bicycle Racing began in 1879, during the high wheel era, it was considered more a novelty than a sport until the advent of the diamond-framed safety bicycle in 1890.
Perhaps no one made a greater contribution to the acknowledgment of women as serious competitors in bicycle racing than Tillie Anderson.
Tillie, who from the years 1897 to 1902 was known as "female bicycling champion of the world," was born in Skane, Sweden on April 23, 1875. She was the fourth of five siblings. Tillie's reputation for having a strong will and perseverance began early.
After her father died when she was eight years old, she began working for a neighboring farmer during haying and harvesting to help support her mother, brother and three sisters.
In 1891, Tillie and her brother August emigrated to America, joining their older sister Hanna in Chicago. The rest of the family came to America the following year.
Tillie found work as a seamstress in a tailor's shop. In two years, she had saved enough money for a bicycle. Newspapers of that era like to say that she was thin and weak when she first came to America, but she was quoted as saying "I did not take to the wheel for my health, particularly. I suppose it was more for the reason that bicycles were being used by women and I wanted to try the fad."...
-- By Heather Drieth
Published in "The Wheelmen"