Sunday afternoon, the two-wheeled entourage stopped in front of a small, frame house with a bright-yellow door.
They kept pedaling to Near South mansions and modest bungalows and the entrance to a grand old elementary school, each stop honoring the women who once lived or worked inside those doors.
Mary Bryan. Edna Barkley. Phebe Elliott. Ida Robbins. Marjorie Barstow. Capitola Wolfenberger.
That tour — “Pedaling Suffrage: Along the Path of Women Activists” — coincides with the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote and is the subject of the History Nebraska exhibit “Votes for Women.”
A repeat tour is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m.
Last Sunday, Ed Zimmer, Lincoln’s newly retired preservation planner, led the way past pieces of women’s history, and a member of the Great Plains Trails Network trailed the 15 riders.
“As a sweeper,” said Garry Martin. “Make sure no one got left behind.”
Martin and his wife, Becky, made the 3- to 4-mile trek, one of several History Nebraska bike tours they’ve taken.
“It’s just an enjoyable afternoon to get out and ride your bike and learn a little bit about the history of your locality,” Martin said.
Martin is a member of both History Nebraska and the Preservation Association of Lincoln, which helps promote and sponsor the tours along with the Great Plains Trails Network.
He knew about educator Louise Pound, whose brother Roscoe Pound’s home is on the tour, and he knew a little bit about Edna Barkley, a former dean of women at the University of Nebraska, and the namesake along with her husband, William, of the Barkley Center on the UNL East Campus.
But he learned more about them and about other Lincoln women, whose names and accomplishments were not familiar to him.
“The real beauty of the trip was to learn about some of those people.”
Sharon Kennedy, curator of education at the Nebraska History Museum, has organized similar tours since 2016, pairing her expertise with that of Zimmer.
They tie the tours to a current exhibit at the museum, Kennedy said.
A bike tour past the homes of Black Lincoln residents featured during a display of photographer John Johnson’s work. A tour of Russian Bottoms homes to coincide with an exhibit on immigration.
Kennedy and Zimmer planned this year’s tour by walking through the “Votes for Women” exhibit.
It was a challenge to focus singularly on local suffragists, Kennedy said.
“We included activists who worked for the rights of children and labor and found other ways to help women.”
She scoured archives and dug up obituaries, leaning on Zimmer’s knowledge of the Near South neighborhood, its architecture and the families who inhabited those homes early in the 20th century.
She learned a lot, too, Kennedy said.
“Mary Bryan, for example. William Jennings Bryan gets a lot of attention, and men like Harry Bittenbender, but they were married to these really strong, smart women who were really involved in making life better for the next person.”
Lots of women lawyers on the list. And wonderful tidbits about their lives gleaned from the cycling tour, she said. And a supplement to the current suffrage exhibit at the museum.
“Votes for Women” is on display at the Nebraska History Museum through the end of the year. The museum is open limited hours: Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To register for Saturday’s tour, visit history.nebraska.gov.
On last week’s tour, a few curious residents of the homes where suffragists and female activists once lived came out to listen in, Martin said.
And there was a lot to take in.
He posted a few photos from the afternoon on the Facebook page of his design business, Prairie Studio, encouraging people to sign up. But not giving too much away.
“It’s like going to a movie; you don’t want to tell someone how it ends.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK
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