Louise Armaindo was moving back to an era when the only way for female athletes to earn money with their athletic skills was in the circus, which still left them with sick pay and job instability. This was the era which brought the world Louise Armaindo, a child from Montreal, growing up in the circus. Her story then winds into a higher cause and her becoming one of the leading bike racers of her day. Louise Armaindo was one of the world’s first pro female athletes.
Louise Armaindo was her circus name, and she did like most folks those days and stuck with it. She was born on October 1860 in St. Anne de Bellevue, Montreal. She lived a circus life and just like her circus name, also created her circus biography. This was full of blurred lines between fiction and reality, but what the historical records do reveal is that some time during the mid-1870’s she moved to Chicago. Chicago had a strong French Canadian presence from early days onwards, and it is here where she got involved in marathon walking.
Being a Pedestrian
Sports betting were the primary motivation behind any sporting event those days and so was the case when Armaindo entered her first ten-mile walking race in 1879. The event gathered roughly 1 500 eager sports betters, and Armaindo landed the third position in the race. During the race, she met a man called Tom Eck. Eck was a Canadian, but more important is the fact that he was a great athlete. Cricket, skating, running, and being a jockey was all part of his resume.
Professional cycling too. Together the two of them moved to Chicago and later on New York, where Armaindo was involved in the hey-days of women’s marathon walking. This was more of a spectacle based on watching the suffering of the women walking for days on end for sports betting, than actual sportsmanship. However, after a while, the hype died down, and Armaindo and Eck moved back to Chicago. This was the period of high wheel racing, initially a men’s sport until the first three female contestants raced in 1879.
High Wheel Cycling
The moment that high wheel cycling became a paying sport, Armaindo took up the pedals and learned to cycle these bicycles with a big front wheel. These were a challenge to get on, never mind race on them. Not long into her career as a cyclist, she was doing show riding for the local Wilkinson Bicycle School. Her challenge was also on to all other female cyclists. For a $100 you could race her for 25 miles and $250 a 100 miles. Her most significant competition in this was Elsa von Blumen, another former pedestrian who moved over to cycling. It took a while to gather enough women together to set up more celebrated races, but over time, they were noticed, and Armaindo’s career went from strength to strength. Armaindo became a Canadian pioneer for women’s cycling in the world.