Before I tell you Maud Hood’s story, I should explain a few terms, and how her accomplishment was unusual and wonderful. A Century Rider is a bicyclist who has completed a 100-mile ride. This is a milestone nearly every cyclist strives to reach today, and century rides are fairly common. However the feat was not common in the late 19th century for women.
Maud(e) Hood was awarded a medal in 1894 for a June 24, 1893 accomplishment of riding 100 miles during a bicycle event held in New Hampshire. NHCC possibly stands for New Hampshire Cycling Club [see photograph insert].
At the time of this award she was living at 27 Grove Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, then part of Manchester Corp. housing, as one of many immigrant workers from Scotland. Her occupation at that time was compositor [setting of type to be ready for printing] for the “Mirror” newspaper.
The Century Road Club of America was a bicycle group created in the late 1800s that promoted and ran frequent “century runs” often through rural districts. There were similar state and regional organizations who ran their own local bicycling events. In addition to Maud’s feat in 1893, the next several years following were landmark years for women cyclists as I will show.
In Maud L. Hood’s time, the people wanting and reaching that milestone, were mostly men. Women were thought unable to attempt such a feat, and in fact in some arenas were discouraged entirely from bicycling as “not feminine.”
For example, the New York Times of 22 Nov 1896 stated, “An old-time cyclist, who has observed much during his wheeling career, says: ‘Long-distance rides by women should be discountenanced. A man can store up and reserve energy to be expended at moments when the human system is called upon for its second wind. This is almost impossible with a woman, and, while it is argued that she can stand hardships with a fortitude equal to that of men, these cases are very few and far between. Women who ride cannot be too careful of themselves. They are incapable of performances where the cyclometer registers above forty miles for a day’s outing, and when they get beyond their limit it is bound to tell again them. No one ever say a female century rider with roses in her cheek or the blue cast to her eye.The female scorcher is a stoop-shouldered wan and with a consumptive look to her countenance. All this tends to cast cycle riding for females into disfavor….”
Abbreviated timeline of long-distance women riders:
October 1891, the Topeka Daily Capital newspaper reported on Miss Alice Waugh, who had recently completed a 103 mile bicycle ride in less than 16 hours on her safety wheel. She was noted as being the first Chicago woman to make a century run.
June 24 1893: Maud Hood of Manchester, NH completes 100-mile bicycle ride. She is awarded a medal for same, “First Lady Century Rider” the following year in 1894 [see photo of medal at the top, photographs of Maud in later years below]. She accomplished this feat before the more famous riders such as Miss Londonderry, Annis Porter, and Francis Willard made front page news.
By August of 1894 newspapers were full of the news about “Miss Londonderry“ [who was really Annie Kopchovsky]. She left Boston MA on June 15, 1894 reportedly on a dare, with a goal to journey the globe in fifteen months. There were other conditions to the trip, and she had a month in New York City to prepare. The Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) of December 3, 1897 says it required two years and two months for her to make a trip, and that she was then (1897) writing an account of her experiences. Miss Londonderry had a connection to New Hampshire. She apparently was paid a sum to advertise the Londonderry Lithia Water [of Nashua NH] during her travels, and she borrowed the name of her first sponsor.
In an August 1894 edition of the Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) the news was full of Chicago Illinois’ Champion Lady Century Rider of the World, named Miss Annis Porter. Though many of the women bicyclists still wore full skirts, Annis was “addicted to the bloomer habit.” In 1894 she wheeled 100 miles in 8 hours 18 minutes. The world record for a man at the same time was 6 hours 50 minutes (by J.F. Gunther of Chicago).
1895: Frances Willard, leader of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), learns to ride a bicycle at the age of 50, and publishes, “A Wheel Within A Wheel,” about that experience. Miss Willard was a suffragist, and influential for women of the time. Her book inspired many women to ride bicycles (and much more).
August 11, 1895: the Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville Indiana), page 6, prints an article: “DON’TS FOR WHEELWOMEN.”
Don’t be a fright.
Don’t faint on the road.
Don’t wear a man’s cap.
Don’t forget your tool bag.
Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
Don’t get lost in the country.
Don’t boast of your long rides.
Don’t wear loud-hued leggings.
Don’t “talk bicycle” at the table.
Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
Don’t sit on your pocket oil-can.
Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
Don’t powder your face while on the road.
Don’t wear rubber-soled cycling shoes.
Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
Don’t blush when you take your first ride.
Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
Don’t imagine everyone is looking at you.
Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
Don’t keep your mouth open on dirty roads.
Don’t converse while in a scorching position.
Don’t ride where a man would fear to wheel.
Don’t carry too many things in your pockets
Don’t wear white kid gloves; silk is the thing.
Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
Don’t ask “What do you think of my bloomers?”
Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
Don’t neglect to carry a compact little toilet case.
Don’t go out without a needle thread and thimble.
Don’t tempt fate by riding too near the curbstone.
Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.
Don’t allow your dear little Fido to accompany you.
Don’t use your bicycle dress for a bathing costume.
Don’t pay attention to the remarks of hayseeds.
1899: 700-mile female century rider, Miss Jane C. Yatman receives coverage in the local newspapers. They noted “she was a physical wreck when it ended,” and that she had lost seven pounds.
Editor’s note: The highlights of women cycling above is by no means complete. A sampling from places other than New Hampshire are simply listed to show that there were women century cyclists in other places prior to Maud Hood’s feat, but it seems none in New Hampshire before hers.
Now back to Maud’s story. Maud L. Hood, was born in 1874 in Dundee Scotland, the daughter of Benjamin & Elizabeth (Barr) Hood. She died 13 October 1958 in South Portland Maine. The census indicates that she immigrated to the US in 1876 and became a naturalized citizen in 1898.
She m. 16 Jan 1899 in Manchester, New Hampshire to Fred M. Center/Senter, son of Nathan D. & Mary Abigail Ann (Bickford) Center. He was b. 31 December 1858 in in Falmouth, (or N. Yarmouth) Cumberland Co. Maine, and d. 8 January 1908 in Portland, Cumberland Co. Maine, and died between 1908-1910. His occupation, clerk. When her husband died, he left her with 3 young sons. Showing that same amazing spirit that she did to become a century bicyclist, she raised her children on her own, working as a linotypist for the local newspaper, and never married again.
In 1936 she was living at 15 Myrtle Ave, Portland Maine. She spent her summers in a cottage at Willard Beach, in South Portland, Maine, where she met the Richard A. Davis family and became close friends. Maud and her husband are buried in Forest City Cemetery, South Portland Maine. [Editor’s note: A Linotypist is a person adept with linotype printing–the standard used by newspapers,and other media paper such as magazines and posters, from the late 1800s to the 1970s.] She entrusted her bicycling medal to a friend, then it was brought to my attention by email.
1910 US Census > Maine > Cumberland > Portland Ward 6 >
Senter, Maud D Head F W 35 Widow 3 ch 3 living Scot-Eng S-E S-E lynotype operator
Senter, Fred H, son M W 11 Single NH Maine Scotland
Senter, Andrew B. son W M 10 single NH Maine Scotland
Senter, Winburn S son M W 2 single Maine Maine Scotland [b abt 1908]
1920 US Census > Maine > Cumberland > Portland
Center, Maud D Head F W 46 widow imm 1876 naturalized 1898 linotype operator, newspaper
Center, Fred H. Son M W 21 single NH Maine Scotland clerk shipping
Center, Winburn SON M W 11 single Maine Maine Scotland no occup
Children of Fred M. & Maud (Hood) Senter/Center:
1. Fred H. Center/Senter, b. 16 Jan 1899 Manchester, NH. In 1949 the Portland Press Herald newspaper stated: “Mr and Mrs. Fred Center of Tampa Fla are guests of his mother, Mrs. Maude Center of Myrtle Avenue.” He m1st) —, divorced; He m2d) 30 Aug 1934 in Rochester NH to Kathryn Barndt, dau of Frank & Addie (Cressman) Barndt. She was b. abt 1904 in Suneytown PA.
2. Andrew Bickford Center/Senter, b. 1 Jan 1900 Manchester NH; d. 7 Dec 1976 in Franklin, Norfolk Co. MA; m. 29 March 1923 in Portland, Cumberland Co. Maine to Josie Bernise Tracy. Their daughter Pearl Bernise Center, b 18 Sep 1924 in Norfolk MA, d. 30 Dec 2002 Norfolk MA, m. William Ezra Blanchard.
3. Winburn Staples Center, b 21 April 1908 in Portland, Maine. In 1940 living in Philadelphia PA. He married 1 May 1942 in Wilmington, New Castle Co. DE to Eugenia Kittsall Brown, daughter of Dykes A. & Sarah (Kittsall) Brown. She was born 11 June 1910 and d. 6 Feb 1980 in Sumter, Georgia.
**My thanks not only to Richard A. Davis, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine for providing, and giving me permission to use, these photographs, but also to Gwen E. Ricci for contacting me and providing details I would not have known otherwise.
YouTube Video: “Instructions for Learning To Ride A Bicycle, by Miss Frances Willard, 1895; live performance SPIN.